Arrows pointing at Arrows

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[...] the celebrant's or devotee's intention is not that of understanding, and, in the ordinary routine of the cult of the work of art, the play of the academic or urbane references has no other function than to bring the work into an interminable circuit of inter-legitimation,

so that a reference to Jan Breughel's Bouquet of Flowers lends dignity to Jean-Michel Picart's Bouquet of Flowers with Parrot, just as, in another context, reference to the latter can, being less common, serve to enhance the former.

This play of cultured allusions and analogies endlessly pointing to other analogies, which, like the cardinal oppositions in mythical or ritual systems, never have to justify themselves by stating the basis of the relating which they perform, weaves around the works a complex web of factitious experiences, each answering and reinforcing all the others, which creates the enchantment of artistic contemplation.

It is the source of the 'idolatry' to which Proust refers, which leads one to find 'an actress's robe or a society woman's dress beautiful ... not because the cloth is beautiful but because it is the cloth painted by Moreau or described by Balzac.

Analogy, functioning as a circular mode of thought, makes it possible to tour the whole area of art and luxury without ever leaving it

Thus Chateau Margaux wine can be described with the same words as are used to describe the chateau, just as others will evoke Proust apropos of Monet or César Franck, which is a good way of talking about neither [...]

[Pierre Bourdieu]
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, p.53


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Since the "world of origins" is closed to us, we must accept the fact that we are dependent -- doomed, if you like, to being forever meta. There is no shame in this. We are all contingent, all referring to things which, themselves, refer to other things (parents descended from parents, phrases from phrases).

Humperson did, however, see the possibility of originality via errors, mishearings and misunderstandings. He enjoyed playing Chinese Whispers, especially in later life, when he grew rather deaf.

[Momus]
'Proposal for a Wikipedia page about Humperson, father of the "laws of meta"'


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Philosopher Jacques Derrida played on Saussure’s idea that meaning lies in difference, by adding the idea that meaning is also defered endlessly down [a] chain.

Language never points to a concrete signified outside the chain, that would anchor it in an external reality. Instead, language only ever points at additional layers of language further down the chain.

Derrida famously declared that, “There is nothing outside of the text.” […] Realising that there is nothing outside of the text means recognising that […] we can never get to the end of [the] chain - because there is no meaning or referent that cannot, in turn, be reinterpreted to mean something else.

'Animating Poststructuralism'


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It is necessary, [Derrida] says, to interrogate those various naive or pre-critical ideas of reference that envisage a straightforward matching-up between language and the world 'outside'.

Deconstruction must work to problematize such habits of thought by showing how strictly impossible it is to draw a firm line between reality and representation.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 142


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Related posts:-
The Pyramid
The Real Thing
Vessel and Cargo | 3. Fetishism and Commerce
Tasteful Distance
Only Playing 
Welcome to La-La Land  
Always Missing Something

Tasteful Distance

[...] working-class people, who expect every image to fulfil a function, if only that of a sign, refer, often explicitly, to norms of morality or agreeableness in all their judgements.

Thus the photograph of a dead soldier provokes judgements which, whether positive or negative, are always responses to the reality of the thing represented or to the functions the representation could serve, the horror of war or the denunciation of the horrors of war which the photographer is supposed to produce simply by showing that horror.

If formal explorations, in avant-garde theatre or non-figurative painting, or simply classical music, are disconcerting to working-class people, this is partly because they feel incapable of understanding what these things signify, insofar as they are signs.

[Pierre Bourdieu]
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, p.41-3

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The aesthetic disposition which tends to bracket off the nature and function of the object represented and to exclude any 'naive' reaction

- horror at the horrible, desire for the desirable, pious reverence for the sacred -

along with all purely ethical responses,

in order to concentrate solely upon the mode of representation, the style, perceived and appreciated by comparison with other styles,

is one dimension of a total relation to the world and to others, a life-style, in which the effects of particular conditions of existence are expressed in a 'misrecognizable' form.

These conditions of existence, which are the precondition for all learning of legitimate culture, whether implicit and diffuse, as domestic cultural training generally is, or explicit and specific, as in scholastic training, are characterized by the suspension and removal of economic necessity and by objective and subjective distance from practical urgencies, which is the basis of objective and subjective distance from groups subjected to those determinisms.

The aesthetic disposition, a generalized capacity to neutralize ordinary urgencies and to bracket off practical ends, a durable inclination and aptitude for practice without a practical function, can only be constituted within an experience of the world freed from urgency and through the practice of activities which are an end in themselves, such as scholastic exercises or the contemplation of works of art.

In other words, it presupposes the distance from the world [...] which is the basis of the bourgeois experience of the world.

It is not surprising that bourgeois adolescents, who are both economically privileged and (temporarily) excluded from the reality of economic power, sometimes express their distance from the bourgeois world which they cannot really appropriate by a refusal of complicity, whose most refined expression is a propensity towards aesthetics and aestheticism.

[...] the aesthetic disposition is defined, objectively and subjectively, in relation to other dispositions. Objective distance from necessity and from those trapped within it combines with a conscious distance which doubles freedom by exhibiting it.

This affirmation of power over a dominated necessity always implies a claim to legitimate superiority over those who, because they cannot assert the same contempt for contingencies in gratuitous luxury and conspicuous consumption, remain dominated by ordinary interests and urgencies.

The tastes of freedom can only assert themselves as such in relation to the tastes of necessity, which are thereby brought to the level of the aesthetic and so defined as vulgar.

[Pierre Bourdieu]
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, p.54-6

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[The detachment of the aesthete] is seen whenever he appropriates one of the objects of popular taste (e.g., Westerns or strip cartoons),

[introducing] a distance, a gap - the measure of his distant distinction - vis-a-vis 'first-degree' perception, by displacing the interest from the 'content', characters, plot, etc., to the form, to the specifically artistic effects which are only appreciated relationally, through a comparison with other works which is incompatible with immersion in the singularity of the work immediately given.

Detachment, disinterestedness, indifference - aesthetic theory has so often presented these as the only way to recognize the work of art for what it is, autonomous, selbständig, that one ends up forgetting that they really mean disinvestment, detachment, indifference, in other words, the refusal to invest oneself and take things seriously.

[...] the refusal of any sort of involvement, any 'vulgar' surrender to easy seduction and collective enthusiasm, which is, indirectly at least, the origin of the taste for formal complexity and objectless representations, is perhaps most clearly seen in reactions to paintings.

Thus one finds that the higher the level of education, the greater is the proportion of respondents who, when asked whether a series of objects would make beautiful photographs, refuse the ordinary objects of popular admiration - a first communion, a sunset or a landscape - as 'vulgar' or 'ugly', or reject them as 'trivial', silly, a bit 'wet', or, in Ortega y Gasset's terms, naively human [...]

[Pierre Bourdieu]
Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, p.34-5

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Related posts:-
The Pyramid
Balancing Art 
Where language ends and art begins
Making Connections
Separations and Bridges
Chinese Whispers
Infinite Doorways
A Safe Distance 
TOTP vs Popworld
Arrows pointing at Arrows 
Welcome to La-La Land
From Postmodern to Altermodern
Life Amongst the Rubble
The Perils of Radical Subjectivity 
Only Playing
Solid Ground
The Real Thing
Rooted in blood and soil
Information and Knowledge 
The Colour Spiral 

The Case for Big Brother

Big Brother is, amongst many things, an opportunity to talk ethics on a national scale.

Like any drama, it affords us the opportunity to comment upon the actions of its protagonists, to discuss morals and negotiate personal politics; and like any cultural product, it affords us the opportunity to create meaning.

And yet, this opportunity - unique in its nature; its scale, its availability, its prominence - is refused by many. At a time - amongst the subjectivity and relativism of post-modernism, and the proliferating distractions of advanced capitalism - when the discussion of ethics may be a particularly pertinent one, should we not at least consider the positive opportunities that Big Brother affords us?

What happens when our so-called highbrow media would, without question, rather discuss the interior of a graphic designer's house than the implications of one human being refusing to engage with another? When the baton of talking everyday ethics is instead taken up by the so-called gutter press?

We could, perhaps, point to the 'insignificance' of Big Brother and its fame-hungry contestants, but then we would, perhaps, be missing the point. At its root, it is the interaction of individuals - it may lack the poetic prose and resonance of your average Shakespearian drama, but it remains a fiction about human beings. This much is inescapable.

Represent

Is the black male the most unassailable member of our society? Is he the most feared, and the least 'known'?

The definition of the black male still appears to be a narrow one - he does not, in the popular imagination, have as many 'roles' as the white male.

For the black male to become more known (and therefore more assailable, and less feared) his representation within culture would have to be more widespread and varied than it currently appears to be. A wider range of roles would also afford freedom; it would allow the (average) black male greater room to manoeuvre, and more ways to be.

Related posts:-
Holding Each Other
Infinite Doorways
Make Yourself Up
Guiding Fiction

In-between

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Thesis              -              Synthesis             -              Antithesis

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To become too much of a singular 'type' is to sink into the ground, into the soil, from where you can no longer see or communicate with other 'types'. By sinking you have curtailed your ability to communicate on a wider level.

In this way society becomes compartmentalized. How do the various elements of society (the various sunken 'types') understand and communicate with each other?

If we decide that it is important for lines of communication to stay open, then we need those who have not sunk, or have not sunk too far down. Those that can skirt the surface, go between types and carry messages from one to the other. These would be the oil between the gears, slipping and sliding and keeping things turning smoothly.

These people embody the psychic hermaphrodite. The opposite notion is when something, or someone, becomes predictable - becomes, in other words, a 'type'.

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Empirical sciences, pursued purely for their own sake and without philosophical tendency, are like a face without eyes. They are, however, a suitable occupation for people of good capacity, who nevertheless lack the highest faculties that would even be a hindrance to minute investigations of this kind. Such persons concentrate their whole strength and all their knowledge on a single limited field.

Therefore in that field they can reach the most complete knowledge possible, on condition that they remain in complete ignorance of everything else, whereas the philosopher must survey all fields, and indeed to a certain extent be at home in them all. That perfection which is attained only through detail is necessarily ruled out here.

In this connexion, these persons are to be compared to the Geneva workmen, of whom one makes nothing but wheels, another only springs, and a third merely chains; the philosopher, on the other hand, is to be compared to the watch-maker, who from all these produces a whole that has movement and meaning.

They can also be compared to the musicians in an orchestra, each of whom is master of his own instrument; and the philosopher to the conductor, who must be acquainted with the nature and method of handling every instrument, yet without playing them all, or even only one of them, with great perfection.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.128-9

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When you are dependent on the earth under your feet and the community around you for your survival, you experience interdependence as a fact of daily life. Such a deep experiential understanding of interconnectedness - feeling yourself a part of the continuum of life - contrasts starkly with the analytic, fragmented, and theoretical thinking of modern society.

We need to return to a more empathetic relationship with the living world and learn to see broader patterns, process, and change [...] Our static and mechanistic world view has reached its limits, and some scientists - particularly quantum physicists - now speak of a paradigm shift away from the old "building block" view of reality to a more organic one.

In direct opposition to the trend in mainstream culture toward greater specialization, we need to actively promote the generalist - the one who sees connections and makes links across different disciplines. In this regard, one of the most hopeful trends is the increasing respect for more feminine values and ways of thinking.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.189

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I think an artist is someone who gets to do whatever they want.

Other professions or practices don't have this level of freedom, dentists need to do dental work, dog trainers train dogs, etc. Those could be fun or not so fun professions to have, but regardless that is what those people need to do until they decide that they want to do something else.

Artists can do a project about dentistry or dogs or anything else they are interested in at any time and then can do something else right after or even during, and still remain an artist.

[Harrell Fletcher]

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That was one thing I didn't know. I was hoping, coming here, that I would be able to do a lot of swimming. When you look around you see all these creeks and they look really appealing. But everyone is saying, not only don't swim there, don't even touch it. It's pretty devastating to realize that in a place that is so beautiful, all the foliage, the mountains, the creeks -- it's all in a very fragile contaminated state. It's a real sad thing.

I don't know exactly what we as artists are going to be able to do about that - getting on to your other question. We asked the Gishes, the people who run the newspaper in Whitesburg, what they thought about how art could contribute, and they said that they didn't think that it could. Maybe thinking traditionally about what art is maybe it wouldn't. Maybe we need to come up with a different way of working.

Of course, on the other hand, I fear dilettantism. I don't want to pretend that I'm some sort of scientist or politician that would be able to make some kind of change or know what the change should be - because I don't really. I don't know if that can be my role. More, what I'm capable of doing is allowing voices that are already here to become more audible. If that's what they want to say then that's what they will say. I'm not going to determine issues and then find the sound bites to fit into that. That's not the way that I work or the thing that I find interesting or enjoyable to do. I have difficulty thinking, "Let's try to tackle this issue and as artists fix this thing". I don't know if that's really the way that I can function.

[Harrell Fletcher]
http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/hf1.html

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[...] she wrote as a woman, but as a woman who has forgotten that she is a woman, so that her pages were full of that curious sexual quality which comes only when sex is unconscious of itself.

Coleridge certainly did not mean, when he said that a great mind is androgynous, that it is a mind that has any special sympathy with women [...] Perhaps the androgynous mind is less apt to make these distinctions than the single-sexed mind.

He meant, perhaps, that the androgynous mind is resonant and porous; that it transmits emotion without impediment; that it is naturally creative, incandescent, and undivided.

[...] men, that is to say, are now writing only with the male side of their brains [...] It is the power of suggestion that one most misses, I thought, taking Mr B the critic in my hand and reading, very carefully and very dutifully, his remarks upon the art of poetry.

Very able they were, acute and full of learning; but the trouble was that his feelings no longer communicated; his mind seemed separated into different chambers; not a sound carried from one to the other.

Thus, when one takes a sentence of Mr B into the mind it falls plump to the ground - dead; but when one takes a sentence of Coleridge into the mind, it explodes and gives birth to all kinds of other ideas, and that is the only sort of writing of which one can say that it has the secret of perpetual life.

[Virginia Woolf]
A Room of One's Own, p.108, 114, 117

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All this pitting of sex against sex, of quality against quality; all this claiming of superiority and imputing of inferiority, belong to the private-school stage of human existence where there are 'sides', and it is necessary for one side to beat another side, and of the utmost importance to walk up to a platform and receive from the hands of the Headmaster himself a highly ornamental pot.

As people mature they cease to believe in sides or in Headmasters or in highly ornamental pots.

[Virginia Woolf]
A Room of One's Own, p.122-3

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No alliance exists between hackers and specific political organisations. In spite of the fact that each would benefit through interaction and cooperation, the alienating structure of a complex division of labour keeps these two social segments separated more successfully than could the best police force.

Here are two groups motivated to accomplish similar anti-authoritarian ends, but which cannot seem to find a point of intersection [...] The schism between knowledge and technical skill has to be closed, to eliminate the prejudices held by each side - hacker intolerance for the technologically impaired, and activist intolerance for those who are not politically correct).

Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas, p.19-20

Is the artist the point of intersection?

Inasmuch as the State relies on alienated relations to maintain power, the artist, by remaining in-between, works against the State simply through existing.


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Hermes

We find him, with wings on his feet and wings on his helmet, carrying messages from god to god and from gods to humans. When the god Hephaestus fashions Pandora, the first woman, we find Hermes bestowing on her his very special gift – persuasiveness. When Hephaes­tus springs a trap on his wife the goddess Aphrodite and her lover Ares, god of war, netting them in the middle of their love-making, Hermes remarks without embarrassment how glad he would be to take Ares' place.

We find him charming gods and mortals alike. He is the lover of Aphrodite, and even of the virgin goddess Artemis. He takes a decidedly non-heroic stance in life, always avoiding conflict. This slippery, deceiving, seductive, non-heroic character seems to have been the best-loved of the Greek gods, and perceived as the friendliest to mortals.

He has many names and takes many forms: the god of travellers, the god of shepherds, the god of merchants and markets, the god of persuasiveness, the trickster, the god of lies and deceit, the god of gamblers, the god of thieves, the god of illusions, the god of shamanic medicine, the god of the crossroads, the god of connections, of quicksilver, of fast footwork and smooth talking, the god of boundary-crossing.

He is the divine entrepreneur, a con man without ethics and without malice. He has no values of his own, no concern for substance. He enjoys doing deals, being clever, playing the game. He is the herald of the gods, the connector, the carrier of information. Hermes does not craft anything, like Hephaestus. He does not manage anything, like Zeus, or lead us to understanding, like Apollo, or ensure the smooth functioning of society, like Hera, or harvest and hoard, like Kronos. He does not fight, like Ares, or nourish, like Demeter, or protect the weak, like Artemis. He loves paradox and process, trickery and risk. He is ambiguous and many-­faced. He is everybody's mate. He is not associated with a particular place, does not have a temple and priests like the other gods, but is worshipped at every crossroad.

[Bernie Neville]
THE CHARM OF HERMES: HILLMAN, LYOTARD, AND THE POSTMODERN CONDITION

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'Spiral Wizards'

Every epoch, generation, culture and ethnicity has produced its own wizards [...] These 'wise ones' typically arise in times of crisis and rapid change when old patterns and forms are being replaced by the new.

They inhabit the shadows and in-between places - edges, cusps, verges, caves, brinks, rims, fringes, and divides - those misty realms that are no longer one thing but not yet another. Anything can happen in these haunts, the borderline spaces and times.

[...] Most worked quietly offstage, king makers and breakers behind the scenes.

[They] are adept at bridging transition zones between one [thing] and another.

Spiral Wizards wear many different hats and can play a myriad of roles. Just as they can fit in many worlds, they can adjust styles, being sensitive when appropriate and ruthless when necessary, even walking away when their own interests and needs take them elsewhere.

They have very few boundaries, off-limits, or narrow, confining rules to restrict their thinking. Nor are they impeded by the artificial separations imposed by disciplines, fields of knowledge, sacred territories, restrictive traditions, or separate divisional titles in a company. They are resourceful enough to experiment with the novel or make do with the ordinary. Historic differences in terms of church vs. state, public vs. private, one level of government vs. another, or one category or person vs. another have little significance.

'Who is right?' is not as important as 'what does the Spiral need?' Competency is more valued than seniority; knowledge is more useful than status. The mind is free to learn anything from anybody in any manner necessary. Nothing from the past is thrown away, and nothing from the future is rejected out of hand.

Overall, they act on behalf of the entire organism (person, company, or society) for both the greater good and individual gain.

[Don Edward Beck & Christopher C. Cowan]
Spiral Dynamics, p.105, 111

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'YELLOW MEME' (Spiral Dynamics)

YELLOW thinkers can stitch together the interests of the often conflicting MEMEs so each continues to run independently together. YELLOW defines situations so as to make possible, though not to guarantee, the healthy coexistence of all of the systems. [...] YELLOW activists are uniquely qualified to remove blockages and smooth out flows between and among MEMEs.

In short, YELLOW is able to move in and out of the various First Tier systems in order to (1) make them healthy and (2) show their connections with other systems in the Spiral.

[Don Edward Beck & Christopher C. Cowan]
Spiral Dynamics, p.283

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One of the basic tenets of American Indian religion is the notion that everything in the universe is related. Nevertheless, things that exist are often seen as having a counterpart: sky and earth, plant and animal, water and fire.

In all of these polarities there exist mediators. The role of the mediator is to hold the polarities together, to keep the world from disintegrating.

[...] The mediator between the polarities of woman and man, in the American Indian religious explanation, is a being that combines elements of both genders.

[...] The berdache receives respect partly as a result of being a mediator. Somewhere between the status of women and men, berdaches not only mediate between the sexes but between the psychic and the physical - between the spirit and the flesh.

Since they mix the characteristics of both men and women, they possess the vision of both. They have double-vision, with the ability to see more clearly than a single gender perspective can provide. This is why they are often referred to as "seer," one whose eyes can see beyond the blinders that restrict the average person.

Viewing things from outside the usual perspective, they are able to achieve a creative and objective viewpoint that is seldom available to ordinary people. By the Indian view, someone who is different offeres advantages to society precisely because she or he is freed from the restrictions of the usual. It is a different window from which to view the world.

[Walter L. Williams]
The Spirit and the Flesh, p. 21, 41-2

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[The neophyte is] neither living nor dead from one aspect, and both living and dead from another. Their condition is one of ambiguity and paradox, a confusion of all the customary categories.

Jacob Boehme, the German mystic whose obscure writings gave Hegel his celebrated dialectical "triad," liked to say that "In Yea and Nay all things consist."

Liminality may perhaps be regarded as the Nay to all positive structural assertions, but as in some sense the source of them all, and, more than that, as a realm of pure possibility whence novel configurations of ideas and relations may arise.

Dr Mary Douglas [...] has recently advanced the very interesting and illuminating view that the concept of pollution "is a reaction to protect cherished principles and categories from contradiction."

[...] From this standpoint, one would expect to find that transitional beings are particularly polluting, since they are neither one thing nor another, or may be both; or neither here nor there; or may even be nowhere (in terms of any recognized cultural topography), and are at the very least "betwixt and between" all the recognized fixed points in space-time of structural classification.

[...] We are not dealing with structural contradictions when we discuss liminality, but with the essentially unstructured (which is at once de-structured and pre-structured) and often the people themselves see this in terms of bringing neophytes into close connection with deity or with superhuman power, with what is, in fact, often regarded as the unbounded, the infinite, the limitless.

[...] in liminal situations (in kinship-dominated societies) neophytes are sometimes treated or symbolically represented as being neither male nor female. Alternatively, they may be symbolically assigned characteristics of both sexes, irrespective of their biological sex [...] They are symbolically either sexless or bisexual and may be regarded as a kind of human prima materia - as undifferentiated raw material.

[...] The coincidence of opposite processes and notions in a single representation characterizes the peculiar unity of the liminal: that which is neither this not that, and yet is both.

[...] Liminality may be partly described as a stage of reflection.

[Victor Turner]
'Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites of Passage', found in Betwixt and Between: Patterns of Masculine and Feminine Initiation, p. 7-9, 14

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Every Castalian institute and every Castalian should hold to only two goals and ideals: to attain to the utmost command of his subject, and to keep himself and his subject vital and flexible by forever recognizing its ties with all other disciplines and by maintaining amicable relations with all.

This second ideal, the conception of the inner unity of all man's cultural efforts, the idea of universality, has found perfect expression in our illustrious Game.

It may be that the physicist, the musicologist, or other scholar will at times have to steep himself entirely in his own discipline, that renouncing the idea of universal culture will further some momentary maximum performance in a special field.

But we, at any rate, we Glass Bead Game players, must never allow ourselves such specialisation. 

We must neither approve nor practice it, for our own special mission, as you know, is the idea of Universitas Literrarum. Ours to foster its supreme expression, the noble Game and repeatedly to save the various disciplines from their tendency to self-sufficiency.

[Hermann Hesse]
The Glass Bead Game, p.233-4


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The need to be perfect has meant, for me, an avoidance of all positions; because as soon as you take a position, you're compromised. Every position has a blind spot, is flawed. Staying in-between has been a coward's way of trying to stay perfect and un-sullied; an avoidance of battle-scars and wrinkles; mistakes and missteps.

I run endlessly around the pool, observing the people in the water: some are laughing and playing and others are determinedly doing lengths; some have life rafts and float on the surface, whilst others have goggles and explore the depths. Some are drowning.

More and more it seems to me that the challenge of life is to jump headfirst into the pool and to hell with the consequences. Is it too cold? Too deep? Can I swim? Well, there's only one way to find out...


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The notion of the superhero as a guardian is quite appropriate. A guardian stands on the wall, on the limit, and protects the city from whatever threatens it. So in this way the hero is […] liminal.

The hero usually is not normal, is not a proper extension of the centre, of identity. Rather, the hero is an exception, an exception that manifests itself in ways that reflect [marginality]: Superman is an alien, Wonder Woman is an Amazon, Aquaman is from Atlantis. Many of the superhero types are born from accidents - they’re freaks, like Dr Manhattan, or the Hulk. They suggest a type of hybridity, the type that happens on the margins - the place where two categories meet. We can see that in the names of superheroes like Batman, Spiderman, etc.

The heroes of antiquity were also hybrids. They were usually demigods, ambiguous beings that stand between worlds: Heracles, Achilles. We also see [examples] in the Bible: the Pre-Diluvian giants -  called ‘men of renown’ and known for their extraordinary feats - were born of the miscegenation between the sons of God and the daughters of men.

They were the last generation before the end of a world, and being at the end of a world before its destruction they appear as a mixture of categories, as a place where the categories begin to fall apart.

The superhero is usually a mirror-reflection of the super-villain, like two sides of a coin, or a wall. Sometimes the difference between one side and the other isn’t that obvious, and that was certainly the case in antiquity.

Because the superhero is an in-between character he can also sometimes defend the world, not from the outside threat, but from the dangers and pathologies of the centre. Sometimes the hero can defend the world from both extremes at the same time.

[Jonathan Pageau]
Symbolism in Guardians of the Galaxy v.2


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Related posts:-
The Middle Path
Escaping Uncertainty
Shades of gray
Shadow
Everything and Nothing 
Open Wound
Chinese Whispers
Seeking out a challenge
Playing the Art Game | Art as In-between
The Principle of Polarity
Making Connections
Forever Becoming
Separations and Bridges
The Oak and the Stream
Walk a Straight Line
The Eternal Ideas
Where language ends and art begins 

Scale

[...] the more time I spent in Ladakh, the more I came to realize the importance of scale. 

At first, I sought to explain the Ladakhis' laughter and absence of anger or stress in terms of their values and religion. These did, no doubt, play an important role.

But gradually I became aware that the external structures shaping the society, scale in particular, were just as important. They had a profound effect on the individual and in turn reinforced his or her beliefs and values.

Since villages are rarely larger than a hundred houses, the scale of life is such that people can directly experience their mutual interdependence.

They have an overview and can comprehend the structures and networks of which they are a part, seeing the effects of their actions and thus feeling a sense of responsibility. And because their actions are more visible to others, they are more easily held accountable.

Economic and political interactions are almost always face to face; buyer and seller have a personal connection, a connection that discourages carelessness or deceit. As a result, corruption or abuse of power is very rare.

Smaller scale also limits the amount of power vested in one individual. What a difference between the president of a nation-state and the goba in a Ladakhi village; one has power over several millions of people whom he will never meet and who will never have the opportunity to speak to him; the other coordinates the affairs of a few hundred people whom he knows intimately, and who interact with him on a daily basis.

In the traditional Ladakhi village, people have much control over their own lives. To a very great extent they make their own decisions rather than being at the mercy of faraway, inflexible bureaucracies and fluctuating markets.

The human scale allows for spontaneous decision making and action based on the needs of the particular context. There is no need for rigid legislation; instead, each situation brings forth a new response.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.50-1

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Is it that towering individuals (the artist-genius, the rock-star, etc) are a psychological necessity (a manifestation of the hero-archetype)?

If this is the case, then perhaps we need to think carefully about how we create our towering individuals.

A local hero is accessible and understandable (and implicitly supersedable in a way that the global hero is not). The ultimate local hero is the parent or, in Buddhism, the lama (mentor). Global heroes are often unattainable, and by their distance appear unearthly and perfect. We have a sense that we will never reach them, let alone supersede them; in this sense they exert a tyranny over us.

We are currently saturated with global heroes, but are these - and should they be - balanced with local heroes?

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The cultural centralization that occurs through the media is also contributing to a growing insecurity as well as passivity. Traditionally, there was lots of dancing, singing, and theater. People of all ages joined in. In a group sitting around the fire, even toddlers would dance, with the help of older siblings or friends. Everyone knew how to sing, to act, to play music.

Now that radio has come to Ladakh, you do not need to sing your own songs or tell your own stories. You can sit and listen to the best singer, the best storyteller. But the result is that people become inhibited and self-conscious. You are no longer comparing yourself to neighbors and friends, who are real people - some better than you at singing, but perhaps less good at dancing - and you are never as good as the stars on the radio.

Community ties are also broken when people sit passively listening to the very best rather than making music or dancing together.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.123-4

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They have a turtle pond in front of the museum that everyone has to walk by to get in. It looks like a nothing kind of pond with water lilies in it. We decided to do an underwater video. In a really klunky way, we put on waders, got an aquarium, put a video camera in the aquarium, submerged it part way and walked around. The images that were shot that way wound up looking beautiful.

We projected them as three big video projections inside the museum. It felt like you had entered inside the water. It was like uncovering the beauty of a place that's already there in the same way that we'd done with people.  

We were uncovering the inherent culture that exists within a place. Making that visible to people.

Valuing what is already there, rather than bringing something new in and saying, "This is what art is," or "This is what culture is. This is what's important." Instead, we were very subtly pointing to things and putting and highlighting various aspects of a community or place or person.

Several projects I have done have been about one individual who is local to the place where the show is going to be. Redefining what a celebrity might be. Taking control of that system.

Often when you go to a community and say, "I'm going to do something about this place," people will say "You should do it about the mayor." "You should do it about this person who is famous and who came from here." And I'll say, "No. I want to do it about regular people. Those people are important too." There will be this reluctance at first, but then they will be excited.

It's a shift in how you understand what is important or what history is. What an important person in the community is. It's trying to flip a lot of those things on their heads and value everyday things. Using things like a museum context, or gallery context, or media, inherently adds that to it. Making a movie about somebody. People are used to movies being made about famous people. It's reversing that. It's always been pretty positive.

[Harrell Fletcher]
"An interview with Harrell Fletcher: Merging art, functionality and education" from In Motion Magazine

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When my elder two children were young I was for several years a stay-at-home dad, immersed in a world of diapers and groceries while trying to write my first book. 

I often felt terribly frustrated, torturing myself with thoughts like “I have such important things to share with the world, and here I am changing diapers and cooking all day.” These thoughts distracted me from the gift at hand and made me less present with my children. 

I did not understand that those moments when I gave in to my situation, put down my writing, and fully engaged my children had just as powerful an effect on the universe as any book I would write. 

We don’t always have the eyes to see it, but everything has its karmic effect, or as the Western religions say, God sees everything.

[Charles Eisenstein]
 The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, Chapter 11

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One of the most important studies that we have on the effects of local business compared the impacts of $100 spent at a local book store versus $100 spent at a chain.

$100 spent at the local book store left $45 in the local economy. $100 spent at the chain left $13, so we get 3 times the income effects, 3 times the jobs, 3 times the tax proceeds for local governments.

The principle difference was that the local book store had a local high level management team; it used local lawyers and accountants; it advertised on local radio and TV. None of those things were true of the chain store.

Excerpt from 'The Economics of Happiness'

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The Amish people maintain a human rather than an organizational scale in their daily lives. They resisted the large, consolidated school and the proposition that big schools (or farms) were better than smaller ones.

[...] The Amish appreciate thinking that makes the world, and their own lives, intelligible to them. When human groups and units of work become too large for them, a sense of estrangement sets in.  

When this happens the world becomes unintelligible to them and they cease participating in what is meaningless.

Smallness in the Amish community is maintained by a functional unit no larger than a group of people who can know one another by name, by shared ceremonial activity, and by convention.

[...] the Amish community "is small, so small that either it itself is the unit of personal observation or else, being somewhat larger and yet homogenous, it provides in some part of it a unit of personal observation fully representative of the whole."

When Amish enterprises become large - successful by worldy standards - they also constitute a liability to the Amish way of life. The determination to maintain a small-scale operation dictates that if the business becomes "too large," it must be sold to an outside company.

[John A. Hostetler]
Amish Society, p. 12-13, 138

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When a thing reaches a certain size the bonds between its constituent parts begin to weaken. These bonds consist of the sorts of things that tie things - tie people - together; and imperative amongst them is 'trust.'

Because real trust does not function at larger scales, we must invent ways of simulating, or augmenting it. In much the same way that we augment the human eye with telescopes and microscopes in order to allow us to 'see' at non-human scales, we augment our human capacity for trust with bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy is, amongst other things, a formalised simulation of 'trust.' It substitutes trust engendered through familiarity, with 'certification' by means of 'testing.' I do not need a DBS form in order to be around the children of friends or relatives, but I do need one in order to work with children in my community.

In modern societies we are asked to experience ourselves as a part of an increasingly large collective. Whereas once circle A would have defined the boundaries of our collective, now it is defined by D.

As the perimeters of our collectives widen, the need for simulated bonds increases. If human trust fails beyond the borders of A, then any level beyond this will require artificial trust. At these levels it is our red tape that binds us; and increasing levels of scale (i.e. complexity) require increasing amounts of red tape.

The fact that we often feel bogged down by red tape is a sign that we're operating at an unhealthy scale. I'm not saying that there are too many people, rather that the way we think of ourselves - and organize ourselves - is dysfunctional.

Inasmuch as we are imbalanced in favour of the large-scale, then our remedy must involved tipping the scales back toward the small-scale. In practical terms this involves, amongst other things, devolving power; splitting our over-grown structures into smaller pieces, and reducing the scale of things to a level in which artificial trust is manageable, and in which human trust can thrive.


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The indicators that matter to the European Central Bank (ECB) [...] are those representing half a billion people.

The ECB is concerned with the inflation or unemployment rate across the eurozone as if it were a single homogeneous territory, at the same time as the economic fate of European citizens is splintering in different directions, depending on which region, city or neighbourhood they happen to live in.

Official knowledge becomes ever more abstracted from lived experience, until that knowledge simply ceases to be relevant or credible.

[William Davies]
'How statistics lost their power - and why we should fear what comes next'


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Individual v Environment
Close To Extraordinary
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Masters of the Universe
Making a Difference
Small Mind/Large Mind
Everything is Connected 
One to One 

Enlightened Ignorance

According to W. K. C. Guthrie's The Greek Philosophers, while sometimes erroneously believed to be a method by which one seeks the answer to a problem, or knowledge, the Socratic method was actually intended to demonstrate one's ignorance.

Socrates, unlike the Sophists, did believe that knowledge was possible, but believed that the first step to knowledge was recognition of one's ignorance.

Guthrie writes, "[Socrates] was accustomed to say that he did not himself know anything, and that the only way in which he was wiser than other men was that he was conscious of his own ignorance, while they were not. The essence of the Socratic method is to convince the interlocutor that whereas he thought he knew something, in fact he does not."

Socrates generally applied his method of examination to concepts that seem to lack any concrete definition; e.g., the key moral concepts at the time, the virtues of piety, wisdom, temperance, courage, and justice.

Such an examination challenged the implicit moral beliefs of the interlocutors, bringing out inadequacies and inconsistencies in their beliefs, and usually resulting in puzzlement known as aporia.

In view of such inadequacies, Socrates himself professed his ignorance, but others still claimed to have knowledge. Socrates believed that his awareness of his ignorance made him wiser than those who, though ignorant, still claimed knowledge.

Although this belief seems paradoxical at first glance, it in fact allowed Socrates to discover his own errors where others might assume they were correct.

[Socrates believed that] "life without examination [dialogue] is not worth living". It is with this in mind that the Socratic Method is employed.

Wikipedia
'Socratic method'


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Nobody knows, and nobody can ever know
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Assumptions
Are You Sure?
Solid Ground