Simply put

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Simple                      -                   Complex
Mono                        -                   Poly
One                           -                    Many


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“Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.

One third (33%) said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.””

'How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday ... and why'

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Following the referendum on the EU there are many who have found themselves asking why the vote went the way it did - why did so many people vote ‘Leave’? In the post-mortem that has played out in the media, some reasons have been more prominent than others, with ‘immigration’ being a particularly hot topic. But what are we really talking about when we talk about ‘immigration’? Is there more to it than there appears to be?

The subject of whether to stay in or leave the EU is extremely wide ranging. There are many different considerations, ranging from the pragmatic to the ideal; from concrete concerns about business, legislation or immigration, to more ephemeral notions like ‘togetherness’, or ‘independence’; from those considerations that occupy the mainstream, to those more esoteric viewpoints on the lunatic fringe.

Much of the commentary following the referendum has seemed to suggest that people voted for a few, or even one, core reason. For instance, one prominent exit poll gave a list of three pre-determined reasons for voting, and asked its subjects to rank them in light of how much they influenced their decision. In light of their responses it claimed to explain why people voted the way they did.

No doubt there are some who are only aware of, or interested, in a single issue, and have voted with only that in mind. However, it is equally true to say there will be others who feel pulled in many directions by many different, and even contrasting, considerations.

In asking someone to select a reason - or even a core group of reasons - we are demanding that a multiplicity be shrunk down to a unity; that something complex, expansive and nuanced be converted into something bite-sized and simple.

So for example, a person may, when asked, give their reason for voting ‘Leave’ as ‘immigration.’ Whilst it can refer to a specific issue, ‘immigration’ can also be a catch all term for a variety of other things. The person in question may be worried about the disintegration of their community; or about their lack of individual, local or national identity. Indeed, these notions can also be taken apart and seen to consist of many other, smaller, issues.

In this sense, ‘immigration’ is used as a shorthand; perhaps because it is the most relevant of the available options; or because the person can’t, for whatever reason, articulate a better, more accurate, reason.

When I’m asked to explain my reason for doing something I’m often unable to articulate my thoughts and feelings. It may be that at some point in the past I have come to a conclusion based on a rational thought process - a moment of clarity - but now, some time later, this thought process has become lost in all of the thoughts, feelings and experiences that I’ve had since.

Recalling my reasoning may be difficult, and could take a long time. It may be that I simply can’t recall it at all. All I may know is that I have a conviction about something, and, at best, I may have a memory that there was a thought process that led to that conviction. Remembering the ins and outs of the that process is another matter.

Or consider the person who is not used to rationalising their thought process, or articulating their motivations. When asked to articulate and to rationalise - to provide a reason - they may struggle, and reach for the nearest available option; an option that may not be entirely accurate.

A person may even tell themselves that immigration is the core issue for them, whilst remaining oblivious to their deeper motives; to the wounds and grievances that really move them. For instance, they may feel deep grief because the lack of community in their life, whilst being in denial about this grief, and in the dark as to its causes.

Its also worth considering how people are polled. Have they been given the time and space to articulate their own concerns, or have they been asked to choose from a limited range of options? Have they been given enough time to think their answer through?

When we are forced to choose from a selection of pre-determined answers our thought is shepherded in certain directions. Indeed, the very fact that we must limit our reasons (choose one, or a few) closes out nuance and complexity. If we must give our answer within a certain time limit - for instance, if we have a questioner in front of us who is waiting for an answer - then we may feel compelled to rush and could find ourselves groping for the nearest available option.

I suppose my point is that stats can be very misleading. Or to put it another way, my point is that I have many points.

Perhaps this impulse to conclude with a singular, simple ‘point’ is at the heart of the matter. Put simply, we have a need to simplify.

There are always a multitude of reasons, and we can, if we wish, simply things and whittle them down; place one above another and so on. And this process of simplification - or purification - can be very useful. But it seems to me that its always worth remembering the multiplicity that lies beneath every unit; the complexity that lies beneath every simple answer.

To say that a certain percentage of people voted ‘Leave’ because of ‘immigration’ is a simplification.

Whether it is too simple depends on your point of view.


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Related posts:-
The Pyramid
"Laziness" (and other fictions)
Digging Deeper
This, Not That 

Exclusion

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Life                      -                    Death
Together               -                   Apart
Include                 -                    Exclude


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Is it a given that any system of social organisation will necessarily exclude someone or other?

If a thing is only a thing because of all of the things it is not, then identity is predicated on the idea of exclusion. As a person you have an identity because you say yes to some things, and no to others. You allow certain things within your borders, whilst keeping others at a distance.

Thus, inasmuch as a collective (a locality, a community, a society) has an identity, it must be exclusive.

From this it follows that when a collective attempts to include all - give everyone a place - within its boundaries, it also works to erase its sense of identity.

Inasmuch as those within the collective define themselves in opposition to those on the outside, the more people there are on the outside, the more there is to oppose; and thus, the stronger the sense of identity within the collective. As the number of people on the outside decreases, the opposition becomes weaker. When there is no-one left on the outside then there is no longer anything to oppose; and all sense of collective identity disappears (indeed, the notion of the collective itself disappears).

The communities that have managed to retain a strong sense of identity in the contemporary world seem to be those that have very definite borders; in other words, those that are exclusive.

Two that come to mind are the traditional Amish and Jewish communities. Both set very firm guidelines on the kinds of person they will and won’t accept within their collective. I imagine that most people from modern western societies, myself included, would find these communities extremely restricting, and very hard to live within.

Modern progressive societies attempt to include as much as possible within their boundaries. Words like ‘multiculturalism’ or ‘globalisation’ can be used to talk about this process. Whilst an Amish or Jewish community may exist within a larger collective (‘American’) they see themselves as very much distinct and, to a certain degree, separate from this collective. The only way they can maintain their identity is to remain a collective within a collective; in other words, to not assimilate into the greater whole. More assimilation = less identity (or to put it another way: stronger borders = stronger identity).

Multiculturalism faces its multiple cultures with a choice; to loosen their cultural boundaries and assimilate, to a degree, into the larger whole; or to maintain those boundaries and remain isolated.

Picture a colour wheel. The more the colours mix, the less distinct they become. When all colours are merged they become a dull brown or grey. To retain their vibrancy, they must remain separate: they must have boundaries; say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

I’ve heard it said that multiculturalism is good because it increases diversity within a society; it brings new things, different viewpoints, ideas, experiences, and so on: it brings new colours into the wheel. However, this diversity is only possible to the extent that the cultures - the colours - within the collective do not mix. We gain diversity, but at the expense of cohesion.

This presents a schizophrenic situation: on the one hand, I want to belong to something greater than myself, a collective; and for that collective to exist it must have an identity. In other words, it must distinguish itself from other collectives. But on the other hand, I’m urged to transcend boundaries and think of myself as part of something larger. My urge to be part of a collective conflicts with the imperative to transcend the boundaries of that collective.

What really happens is that I’m asked to think of the collective of which I’m a part in an ever more expansive and abstract way. As one boundary is dissolved, another appears on the horizon. Much like Russian dolls, no sooner have I escaped one container than I find myself within another, larger, one. What this suggests is that, inasmuch as we continue to think of ourselves in a collective sense, we will always need boundaries and will always be excluding someone. For instance, we can only think our ourselves as citizens of the earth because we are not citizens of some other planet.

What affect does this swelling of boundaries have upon us? If, for instance, I'm part of a community of 50 people, chances are that I will know most, if not all, of these people. It will be a close community, at a scale that makes sense to me (a 'human scale'). I understand this collective in a relatively concrete way, inasmuch as I know the people within it and understand our relation to one another.

However, the more my collective increases in size, the less likely I am to know everyone within it. Concrete relations are replaced with an abstract sense of relatedness. As the collective becomes more inclusive, the links between its constituent parts weaken. It may be that the kind of bonds that tie together small groups of people simply don't emerge when a group exceeds critical mass.

I raise this because the pendulum of contemporary culture seems to have swung fully in a particular direction, embracing concepts like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘inclusion’ whilst maligning concepts like ‘boundaries,’ ‘exclusion,’ and so on. In other words, we’ve swung, collectively, into an imbalance.

Another way to put it is to say that we’ve had the thesis - exclusion (tribalism, etc) - and we’re now getting the anti-thesis - inclusion (mutilculturalism, etc).

Perhaps we’re just about ready for the synthesis…


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Related posts:-
The Colour Wheel 
This, Not That

Seeing Through

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Attached                      -                    Detached
Connected                    -                   Disconnected
Engaged                       -                    Disengaged
Absolute                       -                    Relative
Immanent                     -                   Transcendent
Literal                           -                   Figurative
'Is'                                 -                    'May be' 


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"If atoms are mostly empty space then how come we don't see through things?"


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To the Jews God said, 'you must play the game.' It was inferred that the meaning of life was in this activity: the game is life, and to avoid playing it - to say, 'its only a game' - is to avoid living life. This is perhaps why the Jews do not revere the ascetic life.

To others, it was said 'you must see through the game.' It was inferred that the meaning of life was to see beyond the falsehoods of Māyā and to penetrate to the spiritual truth of existence.

Crucially the Judaic philosophy has at its core a mystery or a secret; a curtain that must not be looked behind. The Jew can know too much, and so must refrain from flying too close to the sun. In this sense the Jew is forever destined to play the game and to find all of life's meaning within it. To see through everything is to see with the eyes of God; and so the Jew must accept that there are certain things that must remain opaque; that there are limits to his vision.

The ascetic sees through the veil of Māyā and so refuses to play the game. In attempting to avoid the endless cycle of desire and satisfaction, they have perhaps, from the Jewish perspective, gone too far; they try to see too much.

When you can see everything then choosing between things becomes arbitrary. Why choose one thing over another? This is God's view, and explains, perhaps, why God cannot intervene. If you can see far enough then you can see that every outcome is good, and also bad. When all outcomes are good, and all are bad, then there is nothing to recommend any option over any other. Thus God simply observes, and leaves the choosing to those who cannot see far enough.

Moses must learn to live in ignorance because seeing too far may lead to 'not feeling so bad about things,' and ultimately to complaceny. He may begin to tolerate darkness. Yet his role is to fight darkness, and to play his role well he must believe in the game.

This is perhaps part of Dr. Strange's dilemma in 'Civil War.' He refrains from playing the game - from choosing sides - and it is significant that he is joined at this time by another who is gifted with far-sightedness and who also chooses to remain non-partisan, Uata The Watcher. Both see too much to be able to involve themselves in the fray; as Strange says, there is no right or wrong, only differing perspectives. I'm putting a spin on this, because both also have other important reasons for not interfering; but I can't help think that in spite of these other considerations, their long-sightedness is a primary factor.

It can be hard to engage with things when you see through them. There are those who give their lives to a game, in spite of the knowledge that it is, in the end, 'only a game'. And there are those who would mock them for such short-sightedness.

I believe that all of us are born somewhere between the binary at the top of this page; that there are those of us whose tendency is to attach to things, and who struggle to disengage or to hold a detached viewpoint. And on the other hand there are those of us who tend to detach, and who struggle to engage and to take things seriously.

We can put a negative slant on Dr Strange's action (or inaction), characterising it as 'cowardice', or 'indecision'; and at the same time we can see it in a positive light, as coming from 'wisdom,' the same wisdom that leads certain spiritual types to embrace the ascetic life of withdrawal. The view we take, as Strange says, is a matter of perspective.

I believe that as individuals, and as a collective, we need both attachment and detachment. There are times when we must get close and commit ourselves, and there are times when we must stand back and see through. As with any binary, it is the job of one side to remind the other of what it is lacking. The balance, the health, of the individual or collective rests on this dialogue.


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Māyā connotes a "magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem".

Māyā is also a spiritual concept connoting "that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal", and the "power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality"


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Jews are familiar with the ascetic ideal inherent in the Christian tradition [...]

[and] they have come to know the hedonistic ideal inherent in the secularism of our day [...]

The Jewish attitude has in fact stood in sharp contrast to both extremes and the Jew has maintained an age-old resistance to both views and the practices they generate.

[The] image of the ascetic is not the Jewish idea of a holy person. On the contrary, there is reason to argue that although such asceticism is not forbidden, such a disassociation from life and the assumption of additional prohibitions is actually frowned upon in Judaism.

A Jewish definition of holiness may be put in these terms: Holiness does not lie in the ascetic, saintly withdrawal from life, or in excessive denial to oneself of all human pleasures, or in the repression of all human drives. 

It consists, rather, of full participation in the stream of human community life, sharing the joyous as well as the sorrowful experiences which life has to offer, denying to oneself no legitimate pleasures; but at the same time so developing one's sense of discernment as to be able to distinguish and choose the right from the wrong, the true from the false, the good from the bad, the sacred from the profane, the pure from the impure, and the clean from the unclean.

The common denominator between the Jewish concept of hoiness and that of other faiths is indeed expressed in the crucial concept of being removed.

[...] Views differ, however, when one proceeds to consider the question - [...] removed from what? To others it has meant being removed from life. To the Jew, it has meant being removed from idolatry; being removed from secularism; being removed from the vulgar and the profane.


[Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin]
To Be A Jew, p. 36-7, 122

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"But there is one thing that, as long as you live in this world, I cannot reveal to you, one thing for which I must only say, 'Silence! So I have decided that it should be!'"

"But tell me why, Eternal G‑d!" Moses pleaded.

"Moses," G‑d asked, "if you knew the answer, if you understood why there had to be suffering from an all-powerful, beneficent G‑d. What would you do then?"

"I suppose I wouldn't feel so bad about it then."

"Precisely. And that is just what I don't want. I don't want you to be complacent. I don't want you to tolerate darkness.

You must fight it with every sinew of your flesh, with all the capacity of your soul. Until you redeem every spark of light from its captivity, until you can bring sweetness to the most bitter places, until you have not left a corner of my world untouched with acts of kindness and compassion... until then you must hate the darkness as a blood-sworn enemy."

[Tzvi Freeman]
'The Lunar Files'


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Uatu the Watcher stands on the edge of Stephen Strange’s pentagram and asks him how long it has been since he has eaten.

The Sorcerer Supreme replies that he has had just a little water since the Civil War began. Uatu asks Strange if he isn’t tempted to simply end this - with his great power he could stop this quarrel with a gesture or whisper.

Dr. Strange replies that is exactly why he must remain above the fray, for there is no right or wrong in this debate, but it is simply a matter of perspective [...]

Uatu replies that, as a Watcher, he is more than familiar with such dilemmas. Uatu asks Strange to tell him why he is fasting if he favors no side - ‘What outcome are you meditating for?’ Strange replies ‘Whichever victory is best for all mankind, my friend…and spills the least amount of blood tonight!’

'Civil War #6'

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Related posts:-
The Colour Wheel
All is Change
Only playing
Boxed off 
The Perils of Radical Subjectivity
Nobody knows, and nobody can ever know
Radical Doubt
Infinite Doorways
Are You Sure?

The Middle Path

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Thesis                     Synthesis                Antithesis
Birth                           Life                       Death 
Centripetal               Static                    Centrifugal
Active                     Neutral                   Passive
Left                           Centre                    Right
Upper                       Middle                   Lower
Manic                      Normal                   Depressive
Excessive                 Balanced                Deficient
Hot                          Warm                      Cold
Acid                        Neutral                    Alkali
Red                           Purple                    Blue
White                         Gray                      Black


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Maimonides [taught] that an intelligent person should live a life based on reality, on what is true and false, while the average person who lacks the ability to do so should live according to “necessary truths,” morality.

Maimonides makes it clear in his Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De’ot 1:4 and 5, that the moral “middle path” is the “necessary truth,” the guidance given to the general public who are not capable of evaluating every occurrence in their lives and making decisions each time how they should act based on reason, on what is true and false.

[He] introduces the concept of the “golden mean” and advises people to live a life in which they behave according to a middle path between two extremes.

For example, people should not be overly stingy nor should they be spendthrifts; they should not laugh excessively nor be sad and dispirited. He calls this derekh hachakhamim, “the path of the wise.”

[On the other hand] the ideal path, the method for the intellectual, is “the virtuous way,” the carefully considered rational behavior beyond the middle path, when reason dictates the need for such behavior.

An individual who is very careful about himself deviates somewhat from the mean to either side, and is called 'virtuous'. For example, the individual who distances himself from pride and turns to the other extreme and becomes very humble – this is the virtuous quality. If he only moves toward the middle and is humble, [whilst this is] not the best behavior, it is still considered wise behavior, [thus the individual] is called 'wise.' 

The virtuous people of old would arrange their behaviors away from the middle path toward the two extremes. There were times when the behavior would veer toward one extreme, while there were times when the behavior would veer toward the other. This is behavior that is beyond the legal requirement. We are required to take the middle paths.

Both the essential truth of morality and the real truth advocate proper conduct. However, the essential truth focuses only on what the average person is capable of doing, morality. The difference between the two can be seen in the example presented by Maimonides in his Hilkhot De’ot.

The average person following morality is advised to follow the middle path for it is easier than having to analyze every situation independently, while intellectuals, who are capable of using reason and considering the “true” results of their behavior, are told to deviate when advisable from the middle path.

[Israel Drazin]
'An Intelligent Person is not Moral' (minor adjustments have been made to the original text)


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Homeostasis is the property of a system in which a variable (for example, the concentration of a substance in solution, or its temperature) is actively regulated to remain very nearly constant.

'Homeostasis'


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Related posts:-
Balance
Shades of Gray
In-between
Searching Without/Searching Within