Spontaneous, Intimate and Aware!


The attainment of autonomy is manifested by the release or recovery of three capacities: awareness, spontaneity and intimacy.

Awareness

Awareness means the capacity to see a coffeepot and hear the birds sing in one's own way, and not the way one was taught.

It may be assumed on good grounds that seeing and hearing have a different quality for infants than for grownups, and that they are more aesthetic and less intellectual in the first years of life. A little boy sees and hears birds with delight. Then the 'good' father comes along and feels he should 'share' the experience and help his son 'develop'. He says: 'That's a jay, and this is a sparrow.' The moment the little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.

Father has good reasons on his side, since few people can afford to go through life listening to the birds sing, and the sooner the little boy starts his 'education' the better. Maybe he will be an ornithologist when he grows up.

A few people, however, can still see and hear in the old way. But most members of the human race have lost the capacity to be painters, poets or musicians, and are not left the option of seeing and hearing directly even if they can afford to; they must get it secondhand. The recovery of this ability is called here 'awareness'.

Awareness requires living in the here and now, and not in the elsewhere, the past or the future. A good illustration of possibilities in American life, is driving to work in the morning in a hurry. The decisive question is: 'Where is the mind when the body is here?' and there are three common cases.

1. The man whose chief preoccupation is being on time is the one who is furthest out. With his body at the wheel of his car, his mind is at the door of his office, and he is oblivious to his immediate surroundings except insofar as they are obstacles to the moment when his soma will catch up with his psyche.

While he is driving, he is almost completely lacking in autonomy, and as a human being he is in essence more dead than alive.

2. The Sulk, on the other hand, is not so much concerned with arriving on time as in collecting excuses for being late ... He, too, is oblivious to his surroundings except as they subscribe to his game, so that he is only half alive. His body is in his car, but his mind is out looking for blemishes and injustices.

3. Less common is the 'natural driver' , the man to whom driving a car is a congenial science and art.

He, too, is oblivious of his surroundings except as they offer scope for the craftmanship which is its own reward, but he is very much aware of himself and the machine which he controls so well, and to that extent he is alive.

4. The fourth case is the person who is aware, and who will not hurry because he is living in the present moment with the environment which is here: the sky and trees as well as the feeling of motion. To hurry is to neglect that environment and to be conscious only of something that is till out of sight down the road, or of mere obstacles, or solely of oneself.

A Chinese man started to get into a local subway train, when his Caucasian companion pointed out that they could save twenty minutes by taking an express, which they did. When they got off at Central Park, the Chinese man sat down on a bench, much to his friend's surprise. 'Well,' explained the former, 'since we saved twenty minutes, we can afford to sit here that long and enjoy our surroundings.'

The aware person is alive because he knows how he feels, where he is and when it is. He knows that after he dies the trees will still be there, but he will not be there to look at them again, so he wants to see them now with as much poignancy as possible.

Spontaneity


Spontaneity ... means liberation, liberation from the compulsion to play games and have only the feelings one was taught to have.

Intimacy


Intimacy means the spontaneous, game-free candidness of an aware person, the liberation of the eidetically perceptive, uncorrupted Child in all its naiveté living in the here and now.

Usually the adaption to Parental influences is what spoils it, and most unfortunately this is almost a universal occurrence. But before, unless and until they are corrupted, most infants seem to be loving, and that is the essential nature of intimacy, as shown experimentally.

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For certain fortunate people there is something which transcends all classifications of behaviour, and that is awareness; something which rises above the programming of the past, and that is spontaneity; and something that is more rewarding than games, and that is intimacy.

But all three of these may be frightening and even perilous to the unprepared. Perhaps they are better off as they are, seeking their solutions in popular techniques of social action, such as 'togetherness'. This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it.

[Eric Berne]
Games People Play, p.158, 159, 160, 162

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Another consequence of the nature of the intellect of animals, which we have discussed, is the exact agreement of their consciousness with their environment. Nothing stands between the animal and the external world; but between us and that world there are always our thoughts and ideas about it, and these often make us inaccessible to it, and it to us.

Only in the case of children and of very uneducated persons does this wall sometimes become so thin that to know what is going on within them we need only see what is going on around them.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.61

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Related posts:-
The Attainment of Autonomy
Silent Violence
Learn, to be mindless
Pre-rational & Trans-rational
The Real Thing
Leaving the Vessel

TRANSFORMER | Introduction

TRANSFORMER: Art Gallery in Disguise
The Contemporary Art Gallery as Breaking Machine

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Within our culture the term ‘art’ is used to cover a variety of experiences, and this breadth is reflected in the various potentialities of the art gallery. This text hopes to explore one of these potentialities, namely its capacity to act as a space for transforming experience.

TRANSFORMER | Becoming Mindless

Becoming Mindless

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We are born into a world that offers countless possibilities, and are quickly, through a process of socialization, taught to narrow these down. Psychologist R.D. Laing offers a description of this process: “We act on our experience at the behest of others, just as we learn how to behave in compliance to them. We are taught what to experience and what not to experience, as we are taught what movements to make and what sounds to emit … As he is taught to move in specific ways, out of the whole range of possible movements, [the child] is taught to experience, out of the whole range of possible experience.”1

Whether this process is a ‘natural’ or necessary one is a discussion for another place; what matters here is that this process happens, in some form or other. It is from this assumption that we shall continue.

We quickly learn to label experience, and in doing so to draw invisible borders. Something becomes a ‘dance performance’, another thing becomes a ‘theatre production’, and another a ‘live music event.’ Our ways of experiencing the sights, sounds, and ideas of the world are categorized, and are seen and understood through the conventions of these categories. And so, theatre brings with it the ‘theatre world’, art the ‘art world’ and so on - all with their various conventions and assumptions.

In boxing experience we risk becoming mindless to the breadth of possibilities that being alive offers; our continued socialization can make us forget the ‘countless possibilities’ of the world that we were born into. Psychologist Ellen Langer refers to this forgetfulness as being ‘mindless’ - “The mindless individual is committed to one predetermined use of the information, and other possible uses or applications are not explored … When our minds are set on one thing or on one way of doing things, mindlessly determined in the past, we blot out intuition and miss much of the present world around us.”2

Much art is concerned with combating mindlessness. We can look to the work of Bruce Nauman for examples of this approach; “Raw Material Washing Hands, Normal” is a looped video of someone washing their hands. In examining this everyday act, Nauman offers us a chance to re-assess our assumptions - to stop and consider an act that, for most of us, will be near automatic (and by extension one that we may have become mindless to). We are invited to ask; ‘What is this?’ ‘And why do we do it?’

Whilst the merits of asking these questions about an act as banal as hand-washing may escape some, through work like this Nauman is pointing towards a general notion of mindlessness. He is asking us to consider the assumptions that we make on a daily basis, and to consider whether we are comfortable with making them. In doing so his work allows us to consider the limits of our experience, and whether we want something different, or something more.

Mindlessness is often unavoidable however, and in many ways it can be seen as an adaptive device, inasmuch as it allows us to conserve time and energy – to ‘get through’ the day, without having to stop and consider the possibilities inherent within every act. It allows us to focus our energies on the things that we consider important, such as projects, activities or commitments. The danger is in becoming too mindless, and in forgetting too much.

TRANSFORMER | Sites of enchantment

Sites of enchantment

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It is easy, within the daily flow of events, duties, and commitments, to become oblivious to the many moments of enchantment that are available to us. This isn’t to say that our lives are entirely devoid of enchantment; just as our ‘work’ time is characterized by delineated necessity, our ‘play’ time can be equally as plotted. We are offered a variety of conventional sites of enchantment, from the surround-sound wonder of the cinema, through to the poetic poignancy of the sunset; society points us towards these experiences, and we become accustomed to their value as sites of enchantment.

Yet the potential for enchantment resides within the humblest of things, something we are often reminded of through the sensitivity of the photographer, the painter, or the poet. Things we touch and experience every day; a door-handle, an elevator, an escalator, a lobby, a busy street, a darkened room, an empty building, a handshake, a hug; our own beating hearts. If we wish, we can find small wonder in most places. It needn’t be show stopping, or life changing. But this world – it’s smell, its feel beneath our fingers – is here for us, if we want it.

Children often revel in this ability to appreciate small wonder, blissfully ignorant to the various disillusionments of maturity, that promise to dull their senses. Laing comments, “As adults, we have forgotten most of our childhood, not only its contents but its flavour; as men of the world, we hardly know of the existence of the inner world: we barely even remember our dreams, and make little sense of them when we do; as for our bodies, we retain just sufficient proprioceptive sensations to coordinate our movements and to ensure the minimal requirements for biosocial survival - to register fatigue, signals for food, sex, defaecation, sleep; beyond that, little or nothing.”3

In adapting to society we become mindless to the many potentialities for enchantment – we have “tricked ourselves out of our minds, that is to say, out of our own personal world of experience, out of that unique meaning with which potentially we may endow the external world …”4 It is perhaps because the scale of experience that is available to us is so frightening and seemingly unmanageable that we choose to delimit it through various categorizations and assumptions.

“Just as mindlessness is the rigid reliance on old categories, mindfulness means the continual creation of new ones. Categorizing and recategorizing, labeling and relabeling as one masters the world are processes natural to children. They are adaptive and inevitable part of surviving in this world. Freud recognized the importance of creation and mastery in childhood:

Should we not look for the first traces of imaginative activity as early in childhood? The child's best-loved and most intense occupation is with his play or games. Might we not say that every child at play behaves like a creative writer, in that he creates a world of his own, or rather, re-arranges the things of the world in a new way which pleases him?

The child's serious re-creation can become the adult's playful recreation.”5

As children we are adept at creating our own worlds, an ability – and an idea – that many of us eventually relinquish in adulthood. Yet the benefits of re-creation should now be clear; we are able to create new sites of enchantment, to see things differently and, perhaps, to appreciate being alive more.

TRANSFORMER | Breaking Machine

Breaking Machine

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It is the art gallery’s potential as a site of re-creation, or transformation, that we are interested in. But, in the spirit of mindfulness, let’s examine our assumptions. Firstly, let’s jettison the label ‘art gallery’ for now, and see what happens. What are we left with? We have a building, one with special properties. When we place things within it they appear changed; or rather, the way we view them has the potential to become altered – widened.

In this sense our building can be seen as a machine – a breaking machine. It contains a vacuum, devoid of assumptions or associations, and when something is placed within it the vacuum strips it of these things. It is in this sense that the machine becomes a site of re-appraisal.

Anything can be placed within the machine – its context-breaking properties work on most things, from the most mundane to the most esoteric and complex. Because the machine strips things of their context (and, by extension, the assumptions that we make which are related to context) they can be seen in a different way to how we may normally see them.

Let’s try an object in the machine, something that most of us probably encounter on a daily basis: a tree. We enter the building and are faced with this tree. We wonder why it is here, and examine it to see if it contains any clues – perhaps it is different from other trees, and we may try and discern this difference. Eventually we may come to the conclusion that it appears to be a normal tree, much like all of the other trees that we see outside on a daily basis. We decide to stop looking at it, and move on.

What has the machine offered us? In removing the tree from its normal context – as an adornment in a city, or a feature of the countryside (amongst other things) – we are able to look at it afresh. This new context has allowed us, if only momentarily, to become mindful to this everyday object.

The machine also works with experiences; what if we were to place a gig inside? Or a fight? A kiss? A planetarium?

TRANSFORMER | Conclusion

Conclusion

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The machine – the gallery – has the ability to become a place that encourages mindfulness. It recognizes how easily we can slip into mindlessness, and how various pressures can force us to lead lives that are dulled to enchantment. Its project is to shake us from our sedation; to confront us, with the assertion that, ‘in this space you will not be allowed to be mindless.’ This is the contract we enter, and a contract that we should be aware of.

At best it hopes that this experience of re-creation will remind us of our own inherent ability to re-create, and to remind us of what we once knew: that the original, and best, breaking machine is us.

TRANSFORMER | Endnotes

Endnotes

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1. Laing, R.D. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.51
2. Langer, Ellen. Mindfulness, p.118
3. Laing, R.D. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.22
4. Laing, R.D. The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.61
5. Langer, Ellen. Mindfulness, p.63

TRANSFORMER | Post-script

It may be that to have this space of transformation is only ever a concession to the uncompromising vision of the world sought by the likes of Dada and the Situationist International; in which the gallery system would be exploded, allowing the transformative effects of the gallery to flow out into their natural place: our everyday lives in the world at large.

In this vision, all spaces would be potential spaces of transformation, within a societal system that encourages mindfulness.

Breakdown

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Solid                                 -                      Liquid
Creation                            -                      Destruction
Intentional                         -                      Random
Reasoned                           -                      Arbitrary
Known                               -                      Unknown
Closed                                -                      Open
Control                               -                      Chaos


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The artist plays with the structure, but does not create the structure. They do not make tautologies ("dependable systems in which everyone can agree on the terms and oppositions"), they break them.

The dance of the artist is, like that of Shiva, a destructive one. Structures move and shake from its tremors, and openings emerge; cracks and holes in which new possibilities can enter. The structure may crumble and fall, or it may absorb this new information and become enlarged.

"Without the random, there can be no new thing [...] creative thought must always contain a random component."

Artists then, are interested in the random. And randomness is synonymous with deconstruction, disorganization. In creating something we impose sense and order, and in destroying it we do the opposite.

The arts threaten the known world. They give lie to the idea that we can have a totality of knowledge - or, indeed, of anything.


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I am really interested in the different ways that language functions.

It's difficult to see what the functioning edges of language are.

The place where it communicates best and most easily is also the place where language is the least interesting and emotionally involving - such as the functional way we understand the word "sing" or the sentence "Pick up the pencil."

When these functional edges are explored, however, other areas of your mind make you aware of language potential.

I think the point where language starts to break down as a useful tool for communication is the same edge where poetry or art occurs.

Roland Barthes has written about the pleasure that is derived from reading when what is known rubs up against what is unknown, or when correct grammar rubs up against nongrammar. In other words, if one context is different from the context that was given to you by the writer, two different kinds of things you understand rub against each other.

When language begins to break down a little bit, it becomes exciting and communicates in nearly the simplest way that it can function: you are forced to be aware of the sounds and the poetic parts of words.

If you deal only with what is known, you'll have redundancy; on the other hand, if you deal only with the unknown, you cannot communicate at all. There is always some combination of the two, and it is how they touch each other that makes communication interesting.

Too much of one or the other is either unintelligible or boring, but the tension of being almost too far in either direction is very interesting to think about.

Art is interesting to me when it ceases to function as art - when what we know as painting stops being painting, or when printmaking ceases to be printmaking - whenever art doesn't read the way we are used to.

In this manner, a good piece of art continues to function, revealing new meaning and remaining exciting for a long time, even though our vision of what art is supposed to be keeps changing.

 After a while, however, our point of view as to how art can function changes radically enough that the work of art becomes art history. Eventually, our perspective is altered so much that its functions just aren't available to us anymore and art becomes archaeology.

[Bruce Nauman]
Please Pay Attention Please ('Talking With Bruce Nauman: An Interview, 1989')


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It's like I'm reading a book... and it's a book I deeply love.

But I'm reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite.

I can still feel you... and the words of our story... but it's in this endless space between the words that I'm finding myself now.

It's a place that's not of the physical world. It's where everything else is that I didn't even know existed.

Dialogue from 'Her'

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"From West to East" is a commonplace journalistic structure for an article. "From West to Female" is more like poetry. By jumping from one criterion, one binary, to another, it represents a real difference rather than the staged differences of the binary. It's fresh!

[language becomes] mere texture when dichotomy ends.

What the remapping of the binaries produces, I think, is something irrational: beauty. 

It also produces a sort of self-knowledge; the realisation that all truths are provisional, contextual, consensual, habitual. It's therefore good to break one's habits from time to time -- to "binary hop".

Only poets -- those incorrigible binary-hoppers! -- can really change the way we see, because only they (with their under-the-hood view of language) are willing to abandon cookie-cutting binaries, or pick them up and play around with them.

Unfortunately poets can't organize anything, and can't make any lasting systems. Because to organize, you need to reduce and repeat. You need a dependable system in which everyone agrees on the terms and the oppositions.

And there we have the tragedy of human life. The people who can change things can't organize anything, and the people who can organize things can't change anything.

[Momus]
'Binary hopping'


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I think what artists do, and what people who make culture do, is somehow produce simulators where new ideas [...] can be explored.

There's a very interesting book by Lakoff and Johnson, that famous thirties singing team, it's a book about metaphor, it's called Metaphors We Live By. They give a very clear example of the effect of metaphor. They say we use in our culture the metaphor, argument is war. All of our language about argument "she defeated him", "he attacked her position", so on and so on, they are all arguments that relate to fighting.

When we think about the process of arguing, we tend to then reconstrue our possibilities in terms of that metaphor.

What Lakoff and Johnson say is suppose that somebody had said argument is dance, suppose that was the dominant metaphor. So instead of it being seen you have the process where one person defeats another, it becomes a process where two people together make something beautiful between them. We could have that metaphor for argument, we don't.

But do you understand that a shift of that kind produces an entirely different kind of discourse. How the shift from one way of dealing in activity that we all engage in to another changes that activity.

Suddenly our language of possibilities is renewed and different.

What I'm saying, I suppose [is that] we're saddled with a whole set of metaphors [...] about how the world works, how things organize themselves, how things are controlled, what possibilities there are.

Generative art in general is a way of not throwing those out, we don't get rid of old metaphors, we expand them to include more. These things still have value, but we want to include these things as well.

My feeling about artists is that we are metaphor explorers of some kind. ... An object of culture does all of the following, it innovates, it recycles, it clearly and explicitly rejects, and it ignores. Any artist's work that is doing all those four things and is doing all those four things through the metaphors that dominate our thinking.

[Brian Eno]
'Evolving metaphors, in my opinion, is what artists do'


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To stop for a bit and watch someone who is doing something, even the most obvious and customary thing in his life; to look at him in such a way that he begins to suspect what he is doing is not clear to us and it could also not be clear to him: this suffices to make that security tarnish and falter.

[Luigi Pirandello]
One, No One & One Hundred Thousand, p.108


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Silence […] is a scandal to speech, an offence to the adequacy claimed by the empirical orders of language. What I have called the managerial motive in language is, more desperately, the insistence of those who use it that there is nothing it cannot name.

Poetic language refutes this observation by transgressing it. Bourgeois language insists on finding signifieds for every signifier, and containing the entire field within the rule of law: the law is the homogeneity of signification. Julia Kristeva has suggested a psychoanalytic understanding of this law and of poetic language as its infringement.

[…] if experience is, in practice, divided into official and unofficial, authoritative and occult; what corresponds to this division, in language, is the distinction between discourse, with its official diction, and the several poetries, with their several ‘contradictions’.

It is the aim of management to accommodate every apparent contradiction within the standard diction by neutralising the offensive words.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 96


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If philosophy and science helps us understand the world better by building it up with new explanations, art helps us understand the world less, by taking these explanations and punching holes in them - not just to confuse everyone, but to build another kind of knowledge; and as a political statement, to tell people ‘stay curious.’ 

That thing you thought you understood, maybe you don’t anymore. That process of undoing knowledge is a productive process, and one that we should always be open to.

[Anthony Huberman]
'Anthony Huberman on For the Blind Man…' 


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[...] deconstruction is always already at work, even in those texts that would seem most expressly committed to a 'logocentric' order of assumptions.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 57


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The general proposition of the eighteenth century, indeed of all previous centuries [...] is that there is a nature of things, there is a rerum natura, there is a structure of things.

For the romantics this was profoundly false.

There was no structure of things because that would hem us in, that would suffocate us. There must be a field for action. The potential is more real than the actual. What is made is dead. Once you have constructed a work of art, abandon it, because once it is constructed it is there, it is done for, it is last year's calendar. What is made, what has been constructed what has been already understood must be abandoned.

Glimpses, fragments, intimations, mystical illumination - that is the only way to seize reality, because any attempt to circumscribe it, any attempt to give a coherent account, any attempt to be harmonious, to have a beginning and a middle and an end, is essentially a perversion and a caricature of what is in its essence chaotic and shapeless [...] a tremendous great stream of self-realising will, the idea of imprisoning which is absurd and blasphemous.

That is the real fervid centre of romantic faith.

[Isaiah Berlin]
The Roots of Romanticism, p. 114-5


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Related posts:-
Everything and Nothing 
All is Change 
Centre / Periphery
Guiding Fiction
Forever Becoming
Mind your language 
Dreams from dreams
Separations and Bridges
Making connections
Shades of gray
Escaping Uncertainty
Do Not Disturb
Taking the rough with the smooth
Negative Capability
The Tyranny of Novelty
In-between
Levels of Meaning
The Eternal Ideas
Silence  

What's your position?

A position is a simple predictive statement which influences all of the individual's transactions; in the long run it determines his destiny and often that of his descendants as well. A position may be more or less absolute.

Positions are taken and become fixed surprisingly early, from the second or even the first year to the seventh year of life - in any case long before the individual is competent or experienced enough to make such a serious commitment.

It is not difficult to deduce from an individual's position the kind of childhood he must have had. 

Unless something or somebody intervenes, he spends the rest of his life stabilizing his position and dealing with situations that threaten it: by avoiding them, warding off certain elements or manipulating them provocatively so that they are transformed from threats into justifications.

[Eric Berne]
Games People Play, p.42

Related posts:-
Assume a position
Don't commit to it
Construct it differently
Status Quo
Do Not Disturb
Shedding Skin 
Sailing the Turbulent Seas
Challenging Art 
Incursions of the unknown 
Testing new opinions and courting new impressions 
Hold it Still
 

Enforced Debt

... if Peter is prepared to make sacrifices for Paul, so Paul should be prepared to make sacrifices for Peter, or else he is selfish, ungrateful, callous, ruthless, etc.

'Sacrifice' under these circumstances consists in Peter impoverishing himself to do something for Paul. It is the tactic of enforced debt. One way of putting this is that each person invests in the other.

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.76

Status Quo

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Life                           -                      Death
Solid                         -                      Liquid
Certain                      -                      Uncertain
No Change                -                      Change
Rigid                         -                      Flexible


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Every system must have a 'steady state.' The steady state is what we describe as 'normal.' For instance, part of our body's steady state is to be somewhere around a temperature of 37°C. This is a normal temperature for the human body. To deviate from this temperature is to risk being 'unwell' (i.e. 'not normal')

It is only through steady states that we are able to recognise and experience things at all. A steady state implies a lack of change. The appearance of steadiness may only be an illusion - after all, nothing is truly able to stand still - but it is an important one; the illusion allows us to detect a world, and all of the things within it. It is only when things are still enough that we are able to see them and grasp them.

Thus, many philosophers have described our world as one of illusion, pointing to the notion that, whilst things may appear to be steady, they are, in fact, constantly changing.

We must, then, take our steady states seriously; but not too seriously. They are both real and illusory. To get too caught up in either story - all real, or all illusion - is to lose sight of the balance. Stay too still and you become a statue, unable to move at all. Move too much and you become a formless spark, visible only in flashes.

As ever, context is key. In some instances we may be seen as too-steady, as 'stuck in a rut.' Perhaps our sediments have settled at the bottom of the glass, and we need 'shaking up.' Yet in other contexts this selfsame attribute may be seen as 'reliable', 'devoted' or 'committed.'

If we are not steady enough then we may be described as 'wishy-washy'; as 'unable to commit' or 'averse to devotion.' People may see us as 'neither here nor there.' Yet at other times we may be seen as 'flexible,' 'mercurial,' or 'creative.'

We could describe life as a neverending to-ing and fro-ing between opposites; life and death; 'no-change' and 'all-change'; statue and spark. We let air into a stuffy room; stir things up when they become too settled; expose ignorance to new information; unstick what has become stuck. In doing so we attempt to keep a balance; which is another way of saying that we attempt to stay healthy.


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Disagreement shakes us out of our slumbers, and forces us to see our own point of view through contrast with another person who does not share it. But we resist such confrontations.

... our intolerance of different fundamental structures of experience.

We seem to need to share a communal meaning to human existence, to give with others a common sense to the world, to maintain a consensus.

But it seems that once certain fundamental structures of experience are shared, they come to be experienced as objective entities.

A social norm may come to impose an oppressive obligation on everyone, although few people feel it to be their own.

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.65

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Hillman: I know I'm interrupting you, Stan, but that's the whole point. Two people talking is, at least conceptually, open to the community. Open to interruption.

Passy: Are you saying that's a function of community?

Hillman: We see it as interruption, as annoying, but the interruption takes you out of yourself, out of what you're doing, breaks the rhythm, breaks the isolation.

So interruption has a value, is important, because getting taken out of yourself is important; it lets air into a stuffy room. 

That's part of writing-as-dialogue, the important interruptions each makes into the other's thought, the sudden turns. So the page is more alive in that it's more like life, it moves like life.

[James Hillman]
with Stan Passy
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.186

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Inviting dissent into the conversation is how we show respect for a wide range of beliefs [...] in a patriarchal world, dissent is considered disloyalty. Or negativism. Or not being a team player [...]

Hospitality is the welcoming not only of strangers, but also of the strange ideas and beliefs they bring with them.

When we think we have to answer people's doubts and defend ourselves, then the space for dissent closes down. When people have doubts, and we attempt to answer them, we are colluding with their reluctance to be accountable for their own future.

All we have to do with the doubts of others is get interested in them. We do not have to take them on or let them resonate with our own doubts. We just get interested.

Listening is the action step that replaces defending ourselves [..] get interested in people's dissent, their doubts, and find out why this matters so much to them.

[Peter Block]
Community, p.130-2

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Last year I tried to get out of the Schreibstube, that closet of introversion, sitting and writing and practicing. I went around America, talking and listening to questions.

The questions forced me to think new things, say things. 

Things came right out of my throat, and I was fascinated listening to what was coming up, like the throat could say new things and different things than what comes from my hands when I'm writing.

[James Hillman]
Inter Views, p.1

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And there's a second reason you are convinced that you're more yourself when you're alone: because it's more familiar.

You are in a habitual, repetitious rut. 

"This is me, because I'm in the same pattern"; it's recognizable. When you're with another person you're out of yourself because the other person is flowing into you and you are flowing into them, there are surprises, you're a little out of control, and then you think you're not your real true self.

The out of control - that's the community acting through you. It's the locus that you're in acting through you.

[James Hillman]
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.41

................................................................................................................................................................................

Dr. Laing noted that the obvious can be very difficult for people to see. That is because people are self-corrective systems.

They are self-corrective against disturbance, and if the obvious is not of a kind that they can easily assimilate without internal disturbance, their self-corrective mechanisms work to sidetrack it, to hide it, even to the extent of shutting the eyes if necessary, or shutting off various parts of the process of perception.

Disturbing information can be framed like a pearl so that it doesn't make a nuisance of itself; and this will be done, according to the understanding of the system itself of what would be a nuisance.

This too - the premise regarding what would cause disturbance - is something which is learned and then becomes perpetuated or conserved.

[There are a number of these] enormously complex systems or arrangements of conservative loops. One is the human individual. Its physiology and neurology conserve body temperature, blood chemistry, the length and size and shape of organs during growth and embryology, and all the rest of the body's characteristics.

This is a system which conserves descriptive statements about the human being, body or soul. For the same is true of the psychology of the individual, where learning occurs to conserve the opinions and components of the status quo.

[The society in which the individual lives] is again a system of the same general kind.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p.435-6

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It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

[Upton Sinclair]


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Another reason that class has become less visible even as it's become more determinant is social networking.

The internet has allowed us to filter our contact with others to such an extent that we're seldom likely to encounter anyone who thinks or feels significantly differently online -- unless we consciously seek them out.

And why would we do that? To "challenge our own values"? Because "it's good for us"?

[Momus]
From Click Opera, here.


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We've seen time and again how the identity politics movement of the 60s and 70s was about making class conflicts visible, bringing them to the surface, whereas the PC inheritors of those same conflicts, in the 80s and 90s, tended to want to hide and bury them by policing language and appearances.

Now, a lot of class struggle -- not to mention education, foreign aid, progressive taxation, charity and activism -- is precisely about people from more privileged positions helping people from less. One class or group helping another is not necessarily "condescension", and "condescension" is not to be confused with mistrust.

In classic Marxist theory, for instance, the intelligentsia can be "in league" with the proletariat, pressing their smarts into the service of the workers. Is that "condescending"? Should it stop?

Difference exists, in cyberspace and in meatspace. To acknowledge it is not to shaft anyone. What matters is what you do with that.

[Momus]
From here: http://imomus.livejournal.com/473409.html?thread=18687553#t18687553


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The better and more embracing the old theory, the more difficult it is for men to adjust their minds to embrace the new.

For the average person, the undermining and destruction of a cherished vision of reality can be a shattering experience. Such an upheaval is comparable to the disturbance a man suffers when a person in whom he has had 'basic trust' turns out to be unfaithful or untrustworthy.

Schemata, philosophies, religions, scientific theories, and even aesthetic prejudices, can all act as bulwarks against the basic, cosmic anxiety which we all suffer when we realize how large and how indifferent the world is, and how small and helpless is each individual in it.

No wonder we resent having our cherished illusions shattered, our traditional way of looking at things challenged. When the Impressionists first tried to exhibit their works in Paris, they were greeted with storms of abuse. We can only understand such intemperance if we realize that their new artistic vision must have mobilized intense feelings of basic anxiety in the artistic establishment.

[Anthony Storr]
The Dynamics of Creation, p.147

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Only through experience do we become aware of the inflexibility of other people's characters

[...] till then we childishly believe that we could succeed by representations of reason, by entreaties and prayers, by example and noble-mindedness, in making a man abandon his own way, change his mode of conduct, depart from his way of thinking, or even increase his abilities;

 it is the same, too, with ourselves.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.304


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The persistence of custom, its slow response to change, is a distinctive feature of the Amish people. 

The pervasiveness with which the Amish literally adhere to their traditional religious practices is carried over into the social and economic aspects of their lives.

Sociologists call this slow pace of change cultural inertia, cultural lag or formalism. Through it we can observe how Amish society has remained relatively stable while the dominant society has changed radically.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 49


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[...] he was a most inconvenient and indigestible component in a community whose idea was harmony and orderliness.

But because of this very troublesomeness and indigestibility he was, in the midst of such a limpid and prearranged little world, a constant source of vital unrest, a reproach, an admonition and warning, a spur to new, bold, forbidden, intrepid ideas, an unruly, stubborn sheep in the herd.

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p. 271


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I don't particularly care about the usual.

If you want to get an idea of a friend's temperament, ethics, and personal elegance, you need to look at him under the tests of severe circumstances, not under the regular rosy glow of daily life. Can you assess the danger a criminal poses by examining only what he does on an ordinary day? Can we understand health without considering wild diseases and epidemics? Indeed the normal is often irrelevant.

Almost everything in social life is produced by rare but consequential shocks and jumps; all the while almost everything studied about social life focuses on the 'normal,' particularly with 'bell curve' methods of inference that tell you close to nothing.

Why? Because the bell curve ignores large deviations, cannot handle them, yet makes us confident that we have tamed uncertainty.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, p. xxix


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Teaching Absudities

A skilled teacher sets up many situations in such a way that a negative attitude can be construed only as treason. The function of questions like, 'Which one of you nice, polite boys would like to take (the observer's) coat and hang it up?' is to blind the children into absurdity - to compel them to acknowledge that absurdity is existence, to acknowledge that it is better to exist absurd than not to exist at all.

In a society where competition for the basic cultural goods is a pivot of action, people cannot be taught to love one another. It thus becomes necessary for the school to teach children how to hate, and without appearing to do so, for our culture cannot tolerate the idea that babes should hate each other. How does the school accomplish this ambiguity?

Boris had trouble reducing 12/16 to the lowest terms, and could only get as far as 6/8. The teacher asked him quietly if that was as far as he could reduce it. She suggested he think. Much heaving up and down and waving of hands by the other children, all frantic to correct him. Boris pretty unhappy, probably mentally paralyzed. The teacher quiet, patient, ignores the others and concentrates with look and voice on Boris. After a minute or two she turns to the class and says, "well, who can tell Boris what the number is?" A forest of hands appear and the teacher calls Peggy. Peggy says that four may be divided into the numerator and the denominator.

Boris's failure has made it possible for Peggy to succeed; his misery is the occasion for her rejoicing. This is a standard condition of the contemporary American elementary school. To a Zuni, Hopi, or a Dakota Indian, Peggy's performance would seem cruel beyond belief, for competition, the wringing of success from somebody's failure, is a form of torture foreign to those non-competitive cultures.

Such experiences force every man in our culture, over and over again, night in, night out, even at the pinnacle of success, to dream not of success, but of failure. In school the external nightmare is internalized for life. Boris was not learning the arithmetic only; he was learning the essential nightmare also. To be successful in our culture, one must learn to dream of failure.

[Jules Henry]
Culture Against Man, p.27, 293, 295-6

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Well Adapted

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Limited                  -                    Unlimited
Solid                      -                    Liquid


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Adaptation to what? To society? To a world gone mad?

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.55


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We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brain-washing their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks. Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high I.Q.s if possible.

From the moment of birth, when the stone-age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father have been, and their parents and their parents before them.  

These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities.

This enterprise is on the whole successful. By the time the new human being is fifteen or so, we are left with a being like ourselves. A half-crazed creature, more or less adjusted to a mad world. This is normality in our present age.

We act on our experience at the behest of others, just as we learn how to behave in compliance to them. We are taught what to experience and what not to experience, as we are taught what movements to make and what sounds to emit. A child of two is already a moral mover and moral talker and moral experiencer. He already moves the 'right' way, makes the 'right' noises, and knows what he should feel and what he should not feel.

As he is taught to move in specific ways, out of the whole range of possible movements, so he is taught to experience, out of the whole range of possible experience.

The Family's function is to repress Eros: to induce a false consciousness of security: to dent death by avoiding life : to cut off transcendence: to believe in God, not to experience the Void: to create, in short, one-dimensional man: to promote respect, conformity, obedience: to con children out of play: to induce fear of failure: to promote a respect for work: to promote a respect for 'respectibility'.

The family is, in the first place, the usual instrument for what is called socialization, that is, getting each new recruit to the human race to behave and experience in substantially the same way as those who have already got here.

Children do not give up their innate imagination, curiosity, dreaminess easily. You have to love them to get them to do that. Love is the path through permissiveness to discipline: and through discipline, only too often, to betrayal of self.

[In adjusting to society we have been] tricked and [have] tricked ourselves out of our minds, that is to say, out of our own personal world of experience, out of that unique meaning with which potentially we may endow the external world ...

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.49, 50, 51, 55, 57, 60, 61


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What do children learn at school?

They go varying distances in their studies, but at any rate they learn to read, to write and to add - i.e. a number of techniques, and a number of other things as well, including elements (which may be rudimentary or on the contrary thoroughgoing) of 'scientific’ or 'literary culture’, which are directly useful in the different jobs in production (one instruction for manual workers, another for technicians, a third for engineers, a final one for higher management, etc.).

Thus they learn 'know-how’.

But besides these techniques and knowledges, and in learning them, children at school also learn the 'rules’ of good behavior, i.e. the attitude that should be observed by every agent in the division of labour, according to the job he is 'destined’ for: rules of morality, civic and professional conscience, which actually means rules of respect for the socio-technical division of labour and ultimately the rules of the order established by class domination.

They also learn to 'speak proper French’, to 'handle’ the workers correctly, i.e. actually (for the future capitalists and their servants) to 'order them about’ properly, i.e. (ideally) to 'speak to them’ in the right way, etc.

In other words, the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches 'know-how’, but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its 'practice’.

All the agents of production, exploitation and repression, not to speak of the 'professionals of ideology' (Marx), must in one way or another be 'steeped' in this ideology in order to perform their tasks 'conscientiously' -

the tasks of the exploited (proletarians),
of the exploiters (the capitalists),
of the exploiters' auxiliaries (the managers),
or of the high priests of the ruling ideology (its 'functionaries'),etc.

[Louis Althusser]
'Ideology and Ideological State Apparatus', excerpted in The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism, p.1485


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If we conflate the psychological and cultural models of Kegan and Gebser, we can construct a picture of the kind of schooling which was appropriate for a pre-scientific society and which still persists where psychological development is fixed at third order thinking and the mythical structure dominates in the culture.



Third order schooling


Teachers in such a context (third order, mythical structure) assume that schooling should be aimed at engendering dependence and conformity in students.

Teaching focuses on transmitting to students what is already known in the community. Learning need not be passive, but it is essentially receptive rather than creative. The function of the school (or university) is to enculturation the next generation into the values, ethics, knowledge and customs of the family, tribe, church or nation. The child needs to learn and accept what is acknowledged as truth by the community and to learn also how to behave in a manner which the community approves. The school exists within a narrative where certain values and purposes and truths are taken for entirely for granted.

Education in such a society is essentialist. The curriculum is content-centered. Those in authority know exactly what should be taught and learned.



Fourth order schooling


On the other hand, if schooling is constructed by the mental consciousness of a modern-scientific society, it assumes a capacity for fourth order thinking.

Such a schooling aims to produce students who are autonomous individuals, who take responsibility for their own behaviour, who take nothing for granted but critically examine their own society and the truths it presents to them. 

Teachers believe that the best learning is self-directed and active, rather than receptive and conformist. There is an underlying assumption that human beings are able to discover the truth about the universe if they observe it carefully enough and think about it hard enough.

Such an education looks critically at the principles which guide its own and other societies, in a search for universal principles for human behaviour. It is non-essentialist because we cannot yet confidently state the truth. It is student-centered because the individual student is the best judge of what he or she needs to learn right now in order to deal with the world as he or she finds it.

I suggest that in Australia there are schools which can be categorized one way or the other, that in most schools and universities there are both “third order” classrooms and “fourth order” classrooms, and that in any classroom there may be “third order” teachers and “fourth order” teachers.



Fifth order schooling
 

Where third order schooling aims at dependence and fourth order thinking aims at independence, fifth order thinking aims at interdependence.

Where third order schooling focuses on transmitted knowledge and fourth order education focuses on discovering the truth, fifth order schooling seeks a plurality of understandings. Where third order learning is passive and receptive and fourth order thinking is critical and active, fifth order learning is creative and constructive. Where third order curriculum emphasizes received truth and fourth order curriculum seeks to discover universal principles, fifth order curriculum celebrates a diversity of incomplete (and even contradictory) truths.

Where third order education is founded on historically based assumptions about race, gender, class and cultural difference, and fourth order education maintains a socially critical perspective, fifth order education seeks to be aperspectival, or at least multi-perspectival. Even the socially critical perspective is relatives as one perspective among many.

Where third order education is grounded in a way of imagining the world and fourth order education is grounded in thinking about it, fifth order education integrates first order body, second order emotion, third order image and fourth order thought in an holistic experience and expression of what it means to be human in this world.

Where third order schooling is community-centric and fourth order schooling is ego-centric, fifth order schooling is eco-centric and transpersonal. It is sustained by an emerging ability to perceive not only “my truth and “your truth” as each incomplete without the other, but even “me” and “you” as each incomplete without the other.

[Bernie Neville]
Out of Our Depth and Treading Water: Reflections on Consciousness, Culture and New Learning Technologies'


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Rooted in blood and soil

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We need something beyond us to force our hand when our will inevitably falters; to give us strength in our inescapable moments of weakness.

Without a higher power - that is, a compelling influence that stands outside of us - we must rely on ourselves. We become entirely reliant on our own capacities, our own willpower. In some, or even most, cases this may be sufficient. But when our back is against the wall our will may falter, and with no outside strength to draw on, we may well give in to our essential fragility, in all its many forms: boredom, fear, desire.


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The two fundamental elements of psychotherapy are: let’s find what you’re afraid of and avoiding, and help you confront it, so that you can gather the information that’s there; and let’s allow you to lay your story out, in all of its catastrophe and detail, so that you can straighten yourself out through speech.

[That’s] exactly what happens in psychotherapy, and it should happen in every real relationship. It's the spiritual purpose of a marriage, fundamentally: you face someone who’s different from you, that you’re tied to and cannot run from.

That’s actually why people get married you know […] because this is built into marital vows: ‘I’m not leaving, ever, no matter what.’ [And] that definitely puts a boundary around our arguments, because I can’t say, every time you manifest one of your flaws, which you’re likely to do just as often as me, ‘well enough of this.’ That’s horrible, if your whole life is ‘well, every time you get out of line, I’m out of here.’ First of all you’re not going to admit to ever doing anything wrong; second, you’re going to be like a scared cat the entire relationship, because, well who knows, it could just come to an end at any moment. People say that if the possibility of divorce is open, it makes you free - [but is] that what you want, you want to be free? So you can’t predict anything, that’s what you're after?

It's a critical part of marriage, because if you can run from someone, they will never show you their true face. Because if someone shows you their true face, you will run. And so you say, in a marriage ceremony, ‘I will allow you to show me your true face, and I will not run.

And unless you mean that, you’ll never be married, you’ll never understand what it means. And you’ll never reap the benefits of it, which are practical, obviously, but also spiritual and psychological.

It's a vow, and it says ‘l know that you’re trouble - me too. So we won’t leave, no matter what happens.’ Well, that’s a hell of a vow, but that’s why you take it in front of a bunch of people, that's why it's supposed to be a sacred act.

[...] it has to be a vow, because otherwise you have a back door open; and you’ll never really tell the other person what you’re like. And no wonder, because, really, who wants to know what you’re like! Not even you!

It's a form of voluntary enslavement I suppose, but it's also equivalent to the adoption of a responsibility.

And there’s more to it than that: if you can’t run away, then you can solve your problems - ‘I’m stuck with you, so how about we fix things; because the alternative is that we’re going to be in a boxing match for the next forty years.’ You think you’re going to fix problems without something like that hanging over your head? […] You think you’re going to do that unless there’s a good reason? […] There isn’t a chance, you’ll just avoid them because that’s what people do. It's really hard to solve problems, especially in a relationship.

‘We have to sort this out otherwise we’re going to be carrying it around for the next forty years’ - that, maybe, is enough motivation so you’ll actually try hard to solve a problem. It's a lot easier to say, ‘sorry, we’re not going there.’

What’s the alternative? Everything is mutable and changeable at any moment. Well, go ahead and live your life like that and see what you’re like when you’re fifty. It's dismal. Two or three divorces, your family’s fragmented, you’ve got no continuity of narrative … and it's not good for the kids, not by any stretch of the imagination.

[Jordan Peterson]
'Strengthen the Individual: Q & A Parts I & II' & '2017 Maps of Meaning 6: Story and Metastory (Part 2)'


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Anonymous: I share much of this perspective but it concerns me that you would so easily desert the 'black flagship'. Earlier you remarked that you lack the time or inclination for hacking the infrastructure and it occurs to me that perhaps this is a problem in relation to the 'creative class', specifically here in this city.

The international artists, musicians, writers et al, that choose to live here, enjoying Berlin's relatively cheap rents, liberalism and cultural diversity (and I count myself amongst this group) can easily exist in a bubble, indifferent to local concerns and politics and contributing little. Don't like the neighborhood, city, country? - Move.

There is never any need to take responsibility for the consequences of gentrification by culture - just keep one step ahead, so long as the rent is cheap. After all, the city, society, the world, exist for no other purpose than to facilitate our needs, provide a backdrop for our fabulous creativity - and isn't it great that everyone speaks English as well?

krskrft: As long as these people are paying for whatever they require from the culture (food, housing, etc), I don't see the big problem with it. After all, it could be investment bankers filling their places. I would agree that sometimes a creative culture can begin to border on (or wholly become) obnoxious, touristic, and cancerous to the culture at large, but as long as that's not the case, I don't see why it should be treated as an evil.

imomus: We are the new Jews, and when we're not in our creative ghettos -- which resemble each other wherever they are, with their (synagogues) synth gigs and colourful markets -- we're wandering. No, we're not rooted in blood and soil. Yes, we do usually add economic value, even if it's not always guaranteed to make us popular.

Anonymous: Is this not a false and self-serving dichotomy between nomadism and 'heimat'? I don't think the fetishisation of authenticity is an exclusive property of place - nomads also have strong traditions of self definition, inclusion and exclusion. To to be rooted 'in blood and soil' is patently undesirable but the question here relates more to the opposite pole, 'rootlessness'. My question is, WHO benefits from the value we add?

imomus: Well, essentially there's a "town and gown" division in Berlin between people excited by Knut the polar bear and people excited by the Art Biennale. There was a town and gown split in Aberdeen when I was a student, and there's basically the same split now I'm an expat artist here in Berlin. It's something I'm used to, and I think attacking it does invoke criticism of "rootless cosmopolitans".

That phrase is a euphemism for "Jews" dreamed up by Stalin when he thought his Jewish doctors were trying to poison him, by the way. Stalin didn't want to evoke Hitler's anti-semitism, so he came up with "rootless cosmopolitans". I won't say the creative class add as much value as doctors and lawyers and all the other things Jews have tended to become, but we may possibly be ministering to your spiritual health. We're certainly not trying to poison you, anyway.

Anonymous: It's this division that I am skeptical about, just who are the 'them', who the 'us'? I would think that at the very least these two sets intersect, if not exhibit co-dependency. In the interests of disclosure (livejournal won't recognise my ID for some reason) I could also be regarded as a member of the 'creative class' (though strangely this term makes me itch in much the same way as 'hipster' does you). When it comes to 'spiritual health' both the Knut fans and the Biennale audience have contributions to make - though when it comes to culture I'll take my poison neat.

Dialogue taken from Click Opera.


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Start building your lifeboats where you are now. I can see that the lessons I have learned here are important whether you are thinking of moving from city to countryside, state to state, or nation to nation.

Whatever shortcomings you may think exist where you live are far outnumbered by the advantages you have where you are a part of an existing ecosystem that you know and which knows you. 

If the time comes when it is necessary to leave that community you will be better off moving with your tribe rather than moving alone.

[Mike Ruppert] 

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Nationalism, in the broadest sense of the term, was the default worldview of most people at most times, especially in more traditional places. It was a community-focused attitude, in which a nation, tribe or ethnic group was seen as a thing of value to be loved and protected.

Globalism, the ideology of the rising urban bourgeoisie, was more individualistic. It valued diversity and change, prioritised rights over obligations and saw the world as a whole, rather than particular parts of it, as the moral community to which we all belong.

['Nationalism'] is really a new name for a much older impulse: the need to belong. Specifically, the need to belong to a place in which you can feel at home. The fact that this impulse can be exploited by demagogues doesn’t mean that the impulse itself is wrong.

If I had to offer up just one thing I have learned from my years of environmental campaigning, it would be this: any attempt to protect nature from the worst human depredation has to speak to people where they are. It has to make us all feel that the natural world, the non-human realm, is not an obstacle in the way of our progress but a part of our community that we should nurture; a part of our birthright. In other words, we need to tie our ecological identity in with our cultural identity.

In the age of drones and robots, this notion might sound airy or even ridiculous, but it has been the default way of seeing for most indigenous cultures throughout history. In the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline, recently given the go-ahead by Trump, where the Standing Rock Sioux and thousands of supporters continue to resist the construction of an oil pipeline across Native American land, we perhaps see some indication of what this fusing of human and non-human belonging could look like today; a defence of both territory and culture, in the name of nature, rooted in love.

Like the fox in the garden or the bird in the tree, we are all animals in a place. If we have a future, cultural or ecological – and they are the same thing, in the end – it will begin with a quality of attention and a defence of loved things. All else is for the birds, and the foxes too.

[Paul Kingsnorth]
'The lie of the land: does environmentalism have a future in the age of Trump?'


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