The Oak and the Stream

In this year's Celebrity Big Brother we've witnessed a number of the contests being condemned for being "two-faced," and for "sitting on the fence." These concepts are often employed as a means to criticize, but is it possible that they could have other, more positive, uses?

If we look at the images that lie behind these criticisms we see that they're concerned with the the same idea. To be two-faced is to fail to be one-faced; in other words, it is to fail to present a consistent face, to stick to an image. So the two-faced person may present a certain face in this situation (and with these people), yet may present an entirely different face in that situation (with those people). The criticism seems to take for granted that to have one face is the favoured way to be, the "right" way.

When we are one-faced we are faithful to a single image, a single way of being. The one-face is a monotheistic mode, borne from the notion that to be one way - and to be certain of this way - is the ideal way to be. In Celebrity Big Brother perhaps the most stringent advocate of the mono-face mode is Vinnie Jones.

Jones represents the image of the Great Oak; rooted firmly into the earth, it would take a truly catastrophic event to move the Oak; its thick bark protects it from the elements; its trunk does not bend or sway in even the strongest of winds; the Oak can be leaned upon for means of support, and provides a sturdy shelter for those who seek it.

Jones's language and behaviours give us clues to his nature. In a conversation with Alex (a sapling to Jones' Oak, swaying this way and that, but yet to become immune to the breeze) he urges him to become something (to put down firmer roots). Supported by Steven (a classic American Hardwood) he criticizes Alex for being "a bit of everything" whilst being "none of them." For Jones, to be a bit of everything is to be nothing at all. He sees no value in being in-between; to be in-between is to be ineffectual.

Jones is sure of who he is and of his opinions. Like the Oak, he is firmly rooted and immovable. Yet, in Jones we see an Oak that detests anything that does not mirror its own sturdy nature. He is the one to most frequently bring down the label of "two-faced" upon the heads of his fellow housemates, and it is he who seems most irked when they "sit on the fence" or "go between camps." He is bothered by ways of being that present contrary images to his own.

To be two-faced, to sit on the fence and to go between camps all bring to mind images of fluidity and flexibility; as with Alex, the two-faced person - the fence-sitter, the go-betweener - suggests a tree that sways, that gives. They also bring to mind the image of water or oil, its tendency to slip and slide and to evade solid form. Indeed, the two-faced person is often seen as slippery - assuming one form in this instance and another in that - and as such they cannot be relied upon (leaned upon) or trusted (to maintain a singular form).

When - like Jones - we attribute a negative value to fluid images, we risk overlooking the positive value that they can bring us. If we view two-faced from another angle, then we may see it as having two languages. Thus, to sit on the fence, or to go between camps is to carry messages, from one Oak to another. The Oak - so proud of its strength, its surety - does not realise that because it is so firmly rooted it may have lost the ability to move, and thus to communicate with other equally well rooted neighbours. If it is too enamoured by its own image, it may not realise how much it needs a go-between, to bring news from afar and to carry its own communications.

And so the go-between becomes the stream, weaving through the forest and carrying messages within its water. When we are two-faced we become like the stream, extending our repertoire - our languages - so we are able to speak to more people. In our two-faced mode we are able to communicate more widely than in our one-faced mode. In fact, we could probably go further and describe the stream as multi-faced, because it does not limit its faces to only two. It wants to communicate with as many things as it can - it feels the importance of this duty for the harmony of the forest - and so it adopts as many faces as it is able, doing its best to open lines of communication with everything it meets.

The Oak has much to be proud of, and within the eco-system his role is an important one. Of course, we are not Oaks, and we needn't be as firmly rooted. But like the Oak, our danger is in holding our own way of being in such high esteem that we forget how vital other modes are to our eco-system, to the harmony of our society. If the unshifting element of our character - our mono-face - takes its mask too literally then we will have difficulty in communicating with those who contradict this mask; our opposites. In times like these we would be well advised to remember the stream and its multi-faceted nature; because it does not literalize any of its faces, its masks, the stream has no opposites, no enemies.

The forest is our eco-system, our environment and society. But its multiplicities - all of its different forms of life, including both Oak and stream - exist as potential within each of us. All play their role, and all must be remembered, and respected.

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Related posts:-
Shades of gray
In-between
Whole without a Centre
Wishy-washy
Full Spectrum
Projecting a Shadow
Playing the Art Game | Distance
Testing new opinions and courting new impressions
Walk a Straight Line
The Nymph and the Oak

Still Waters

A story

A man marries a woman and they settle down.

They buy a house, decorate and furnish it. Eventually they have a child together.

All seems relatively well, until the man’s behaviour begins to change. Perhaps he begins to drink more, or drinks with less control. He gets drunk and stays out, gets into trouble. He becomes more distant from his wife, and child. Maybe he has an affair. Perhaps he does other troublesome, disruptive things.

And for his actions he faces recriminations.

“Why are you doing this?” he is asked. And perhaps he cannot come up with an answer, and he feels bad; but he does not know if he feels bad because he did those things, or because he cannot say why he did them.

And so our hero becomes a villain; his name muddied, his image tarnished.

And he sees the pain that he is causing, and he feels the judgements that are cast upon him. And, whilst he may not show it, somewhere within him he is hurt. He does not like being the one to bring about all this pain, and he does not like the weight of shame that has been hung around his neck. And so he makes efforts to change his ways, to do less of these things that have caused pain. He pares himself down, becomes “good”.

People begin to notice a change in him.

In becoming good he seems to have lost something. He seems dulled, muted. Neutered. At certain points of the day he can be caught staring into the distance, empty-eyed. And people wonder, “What is wrong with him?” “What happened to him?”

Some people, those with eyes to see, sense a deep rumbling within him; and they know that something is very wrong.

A story about a story

We started with a fantasy, one that was presumably shared by both parties; a fantasy of “everything is alright.” An image of a still lake, of balance and harmony. But for some reason this fantasy lost its truth for our hero, and he began to desire new images, and different stories.

His abandoning of the initial fantasy – the shared fantasy – caused pain; not only to his beloved, but to those in the community who were also invested in it. They could not understand his new stories, the sense of them; and, unfortunately for him, neither could he.

All he “knew” was that they were in some way necessary. To keep his own private lake still he seemed to have to cast stones upon communal waters. But he knew that these stones were not thrown out of malice, just to see the splashes and disruption that they would cause. There was an unconscious logic in his actions, a balance was being preserved.

Unfortunately for our hero his lack of insight into his own behaviour – his lack of language, of concepts; his inability to explain himself, to make himself known – meant that it became illegitimate. Lacking an advocate, it was forced underground, into the depths, where it could no longer disrupt the fantasy of “everything is alright”.

In forcing his devils underground he was able to once again to become “good”, the communal lake restored to stillness. But he did not realise that the devils do not disappear; they came to him with an important message, and it is their duty to make sure they are heard. Forced into the darkness, they still sing and dance, only he can no longer see them, or hear their song.

Perhaps our hero even begins to think of himself as “bad”; after all, he can see the consequences of his behaviour, and he is not blind to its effects. And so he is forced into a corner, given an ultimatum; to deny his devils, and to force them underground, or to remain the “villain,” and to live with the label of “bad.”

But perhaps an understanding of his actions – of their sense – would make the choice irrelevant.

Because he could not defend himself, he was forced into an act of self-amputation; an act that – seen from a certain angle – is perhaps the most horrific of this whole tale.


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Things that can't be said or thought within a relationship/marriage.

The marriage becomes a normalising structure, marking out a safe area within which we can live. Each keeps tabs on the other to make sure that they aren't straying too far from safe ground.

But the structure cannot stop us dreaming; it cannot halt the flow of fantasy. We see what happens when fantasy enters the marriage, when messy, foreign madness is brought into the home, muddying the carpet and disrespecting the rules.

The question is: will fantasy be allowed in here? Will we open our door to it, or will we turn our back on it; deny it, or vilify it? Does fantasy have a place within our safe structure? Perhaps we made it too safe, too secure. Or perhaps we were wrong to build it in the first place.

"We should be grateful that we've managed to survive our dreams [...] The important thing is, we're awake now."

And so, we're back to normal. We're both back on safe ground, and let's put an end to our dreaming. It was too messy, too painful.

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Frozen in time

The marriage begins with an image - the wedding photo - and asks the couple to remain faithful to this image. It asks them to keep smiling, to maintain harmony.

But perhaps the marriage needs to be able to allow other images within its borders; images of tears, and bared-teeth; of dreams, mistakes, regrets.

In asking its participants to stick to a single image it does not allow them to be fully human, condemning them to the immovability of rigor-mortis. Its foundational image is two-dimensional; pathology free, all smiles and great expectations. But if we decide that pathology is an important aspect of flourishing - an aspect of a balance - then it must be let in.

In this case, the mark of the strong marriage is its ability to adapt to changing waters, to allow the roiling seas as well as the calm lake.

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Related posts:-
I've seen things you people wouldn't believe
Live the Straight and Narrow
Cut to Fit
Wild Things
Individual v Environment
A Healthy Environment
Small Part, Large System
Restrictive Systems 
It's in my DNA
Alone Together
Communal benefits
Lost Tribe
Projecting a Shadow
Digging Deeper 
Status Quo 
Open Wound
Frozen in time 
Hold it Still

Middle World


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Middle                       -                      Extremity
Newtonian                 -                      Einsteinian
Euclidean                   -                      Non-Euclidean
Classical                    -                       Quantum
Rational                     -                       Non-rational
Digital                        -                       Analogue
Noun                          -                       Verb
State                           -                       Process
Solid                           -                       Liquid
Being                          -                       Becoming
Absolute                     -                       Relative


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-                                        0                                       +
Wrong                               Right                               Wrong
Deficient                           Balanced                          Excessive
Low resolution                 Correct resolution             High resolution


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Middle World, a term coined by Richard Dawkins, is used to describe the realm between the microscopic world of quarks and atoms and the larger view of the universe at the galactic and universal level.

This term is used as an explanation of oddity at both extreme levels of existence. There is a lack of understanding of the quantum and molecular universes, because the human mind has evolved to understand best that which it routinely encounters.

'Middle World'


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The universe is always one thing tumbling into the next, one form becoming another. It is a constant interchange, an unending rhythm.

Our perspective gives us the impression - a momentary snapshot - that it is this thing or that thing; a 'person',  a 'tree', a 'chair'.

A lifetime is a snapshot of this sort. Something is captured and held still long enough to identify it, to label it. Yet, while we may think that the thing is still - that is has boundaries and definition - really it is moving: growing and shrinking, flourishing and decaying. At either end of its life it tears at its definitions, and is not quite what it is - the half-formed nature of the fetus and the hollowed out shell of the nearly-dead.

But change your perspective and it may cease to be at all.

Zoomed in, we are atoms. Zoomed out we are specks.
Sped up we are sparks. Slowed down we are statues.

The right distance makes you what you are.
The right time keeps you what you are.

Thus, your perspective is the way in which you interpret the infinite tumbling mass of the universe, and it is the right way (for you at least).


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Relating to or denoting the system of geometry based on the work of Euclid and corresponding to the geometry of ordinary experience.

'Euclidean'


An implication of Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity is that physical space itself is not Euclidean, and Euclidean space is a good approximation for it only over short distances [...]

For example, if a triangle is constructed out of three rays of light, then in general the interior angles do not add up to 180 degrees due to gravity. A relatively weak gravitational field, such as the Earth's or the sun's, is represented by a metric that is approximately, but not exactly, Euclidean.

Until the 20th century, there was no technology capable of detecting the deviations from Euclidean geometry, but Einstein predicted that such deviations would exist. They were later verified by observations such as the slight bending of starlight by the Sun during a solar eclipse in 1919, and such considerations are now an integral part of the software that runs the GPS system.

It is possible to object to this interpretation of general relativity on the grounds that light rays might be improper physical models of Euclid's lines, or that relativity could be rephrased so as to avoid the geometrical interpretations. However, one of the consequences of Einstein's theory is that there is no possible physical test that can distinguish between a beam of light as a model of a geometrical line and any other physical model.

Thus, the only logical possibilities are to accept non-Euclidean geometry as physically real, or to reject the entire notion of physical tests of the axioms of geometry, which can then be imagined as a formal system without any intrinsic real-world meaning.

'Euclidean Geometry'


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In his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Bohm uses these notions to describe how the same phenomenon might look different, or might be characterized by different principal factors, in different contexts such as at different scales.

The implicate order, also referred to as the "enfolded" order, is seen as a deeper and more fundamental order of reality.

In contrast, the explicate or "unfolded" order include the abstractions that humans normally perceive.

'Implicate and explicate order'


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By definition, a category (and we would say, a presumptive object) contains things of a kind, considered in relationship to a goal. Things of a kind may be treated as if they were identical.

The inner workings of an answering machine may all be treated as homogeneous and identical “parts,” for example – as elemental atoms, metaphorically speaking – as long as the machine is performing as planned, expected or desired. This makes the answering machine something that may be treated as a unit, as a “single thing,” occupying limited cognitive, categorical, emotional and perceptual resources.

This means that the object category “answering machine,” and object categories in general, might be regarded as functional, low-resolution images of the reality they are attempting to encapsulate. 

It is frequently the case, however, that one or more of our current categories or presumptive objects contains things that may not successfully be treated as a kind, for the purposes of our immediate goal-directed operations. This happens, for example, when a “thing” does not perform its implicit, desired, and predicted duty, because of its inherent and often invisible complexity.

Such failure indicates the inadequacy of our current low-resolution take on the world.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
‘Complexity Management Theory: Motivation for Ideological Rigidity and Social Conflict’, in Cortex, December 2002, p. 440-1



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[There is a phenomena] which seems to be almost universal when man commits the error of purposive thinking and disregards the systemic nature of the world with which he must deal.

This phenomena is called by the psychologists "projection."

The man, after all, has acted according to what he thought was common sense and now he finds himself in a mess. He does not quite know what caused the mess and he feels that what has happened is somehow unfair.

He still does not see himself as part of a system in which the mess exists, and he either blames the rest of the system or he blames himself.

If you look at the real situations in our world where the systemic nature of the world has been ignored in favour of purpose or common sense, you will find a rather similar reaction. 

President Johnson is, no doubt, fully aware that he has a mess on his hands, not only in Vietnam but in other parts of the national and international ecosystems; and I am sure that from where he sits it appears that he followed his purposes with common sense and that the mess must be due either to the wickedness of others or to his own sin or to come combination of these, according to his temperament.

Similarly, in the field of psychiatry, the family is a cybernetic system of the sort which I am discussing and usually when systemic pathology occurs, the members blame each other, or sometimes themselves.

But the truth of the matter is that both these alternatives are fundamentally arrogant. Either alternative assumes that the individual human being has total power over the system of which he or she is a part.

Even within the individual human being, control is limited. We can in some degree set ourselves to learn even such abstract characteristics as arrogance or humility, but we are not by any means the captain of our souls.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p.442-4

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The researchers showed that in simple models of neural networks, the amount of effective information increases as you coarse-grain over the neurons in the network—that is, treat groups of them as single units.

At a certain macroscopic scale, effective information peaks: This is the scale at which states of the system have the most causal power, predicting future states in the most reliable, effective manner. Coarse-grain further, and you start to lose important details about the system’s causal structure.

Tononi and colleagues hypothesize that the scale of peak causation should correspond, in the brain, to the scale of conscious decisions; based on brain imaging studies, Albantakis guesses that this might happen at the scale of neuronal microcolumns, which consist of around 100 neurons.

For any given system, effective information peaks at the scale with the largest and most reliable causal structure. In addition to conscious agents, Hoel says this might pick out the natural scales of rocks, tsunamis, planets and all other objects that we normally notice in the world. “And the reason why we’re tuned into them evolutionarily [might be] because they are reliable and effective, but that also means they are causally emergent,” Hoel said.

“But if we do find that causal emergence is happening, the reductionist assumption would have to be re-evaluated, and that would have to be applied broadly.”

One rejoinder is that perfect knowledge of the universe isn’t possible, even in principle. But even if the universe could be thought of as a single unit evolving autonomously, this picture wouldn’t be informative. “What is left out there is to identify entities—things that exist,” Albantakis said. Causation “is really the measure or quantity that is necessary to identify where in this whole state of the universe do I have groups of elements that make up entities? … Causation is what you need to give structure to the universe.”

Treating causes as real is a necessary tool for making sense of the world.

[Natalie Wolchover]
New Math Untangles the Mysterious Nature of Causality


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Marking out the right distance.

‘The largest and most reliable structure’ - akin to Peterson’s lowest resolution image that we can get away with. Do not include any more complexity than is necessary, because, in Hoel’s terms, complexity is noise: too much of it stops us from making sense of things; from seeing the outlines of things.

The reductionist assumption is that more detail is better; and for the more zealous reductionists there may be another assumption: that the further we dig, the closer we get to the truth (i.e. to the original cause, to God). But perhaps God is at every level, every scale, and no amount of digging will bring us closer, or further away.


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If the material world appeared simpler in the past it was because we were looking at it through the perspective of classical physics.

When we choose to direct our sight only toward simple systems (for example, those close to equilibrium or that are acted on by small forces, and that behave in regular ways) then naturally the world appears simple.

[...] classical physics created a travel brochure of the cosmos, one that emphasized regularity and simplicity. Galileo idealized his observations of the way a ball rolls downhill by ignoring, or bracketing out, the effects of bumps and friction. Newton asked how an apple falls in the absence of air resistance. Chemists investigated reactions where everything was close to equilibrium. Scientists were interested in what they termed "closed systems," systems insulated from the perturbations of the outside world.

[...] In each case science was filtering the world.

[...] Carefully designed experiments, well insulated from the contingencies of the external world, provided clear data that would fit easily onto a graph without too much scatter or experimental error.

The world of classical physics was free from uncertainty, ambiguity, and chaos [...] As we move into this new century we realize we have been guilty of oversimplifying the world in so many fields of knowledge.

[F. David Peat]
From Certainty to Uncertainty, p. 200-1


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When we're too young, our judgment isn't sound, and it's the same when we're too old.

If we don't think enough about something - or if we think too much - we're inflexible and get stuck. If we take a look at our work as soon as we've done it, we're not able to be objective; but if we wait too long, we can't get into it any more.

It's like looking at pictures from too near or too far away.

There is only one place that is exactly right: the others are either too far, too near, too high or too low. In the art of painting it's perspective that determines where that point should be.

But who's to say where it is when it comes to truth and morality?

[Blaise Pascal]
Pensées


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[...] the left hemisphere's version of reality works well at the local level, the everyday, on which we are focussed by habit.

There Newtonian mechanics rules; but it ‘frays at the edges’, once one pans out to get the bigger picture of reality, at the subatomic, or at the cosmic, level. 

Here uncertainty replaces certainty; the fixed turns out to be constantly changing and cannot be pinned down; straight lines are curved: in other words, Einstein's laws account better than Newton's.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 177


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Related posts:-
All is Change
The Middle Path
This, Not That
Short Cuts
Restrictive Systems
Still Waters
The Game goes on: Lesson from The Wire
Digging Deeper
Small Mind/Large Mind 
Projecting a Shadow
[Anonymous]
Everything is Connected
Masters of the Universe
Get Real
Its in my DNA
Mind Your Language 
Abstract / Concrete
State / Process
Which difference makes a difference?
Complexity
Escaping Uncertainty

The Death of Meaning

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Chaos                       -                    Order
Nature                      -                    Culture


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For someone who knows how to give meaning to life, every instant is like an arrow flying toward its target. Not to know how to give meaning to life leads to discouragement and a sense of futility that may even lead to the ultimate failure, suicide.

[Mathieu Ricard]
The Monk and the Philosopher, p. 348


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The Road (2009)

The Road shows a world in which most structures of meaning have broken down; in which those ideas that make us human - morals, ethics, love, compassion - have been thrown out the window in favour of a single imperative: to survive.

We see humanity in the process of losing its "humanity," people becoming animals. Animals have no meanings, they do not imagine themselves to be something; they cannot craft themselves into one image or another, a saint or a sinner. They do what they must, to survive.

The Father's meanings have shrunk down to one: "Keep the boy alive," and in this sense he is not far from becoming animal. His vision is centred on the boy, and he does not see anyone else. It is his job to care for the boy, and it is left to the boy to care both for his father and for the Other (to keep alive the idea of relatedness, of the Whole). He may be his father's keeper, but he is also his brother's.

The boy is left to carry the fire, a flame from which meanings spark and ignite. In a world in which humanity is dying, both in body and in spirit, the boy's capacity to imagine - to give life meaning - keeps him alive, and keeps him human.

The Road shows us how vital it is that we are able to breathe meaning into life, and reminds us that our ability to imagine helps form the bedrock of our humanity.

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Related posts:-
Guiding Fiction

Break-down

There is a Power greater than the self.

A favourable relationship with this Power is discovered through "hitting bottom" and "surrender."

It is possible [...] that "bottom" is reached many times by any given individual; that "bottom" is a spell of panic which provides a favorable moment for change, but not a moment at which change is inevitable.

Friends and relatives and even therapists may pull the alcoholic out of his panic, either with drugs or reassurance, so that he "recovers" and goes back to his "pride" and alcoholism - only to hit a more disastrous "bottom" at some later time, when he will again be ripe for a change.

The attempt to change the alcoholic in a period between such moments of panic is unlikely to succeed.

The panic of the alcoholic who has hit bottom is the panic of the man who thought he had control over a vehicle but suddenly finds that the vehicle can run away with him. Suddenly, pressure on what he knows is the brake seems to make the vehicle go faster. It is the panic of discovering that it (the system, self plus vehicle) is bigger than he is.

The alcoholic works on the discomforts of sobriety to a threshold point at which he has bankrupted the epistemology of "self-control."

[There is a double bind] founded upon the alcoholic's dichotomous epistemology of mind versus body [[...] "the obsession of the mind that compels us to drink and the allergy of the body that condemns us to go mad or die."]. He is forced by these words back and back to point at which only an involuntary change in deep unconscious epistemology - a spiritual experience - will make the lethal description irrelevant.

If a man achieves or suffers change in premises which are deeply embedded in his mind, he will surely find that the results of that change will ramify throughout his whole universe. Such changes we may well call "epistemological."

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('The Cybernetics of "Self": A Theory of Alcoholism'), p.329-32, 336

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If it were works, springing from motives and deliberate intention, that led to the blissful state, then, however we may turn it, virtue would always be only a prudent, methodical, far-seeing egoism.

But the faith to which the Christian Church promises salvation is this: that as through the fall of the first man we all partake of sin, and are subject to death and perdition, we are also all saved through grace and by the divine mediator taking upon himself our awful guilt, and this indeed entirely without any merit of our own (of the person).

For what can result from the intentional (motive-determined) action of the person, namely works, can never justify us, by its very nature, just because it is intentional action brought about by motives, and hence opus operatum.

Thus in this faith it is implied first of all that our state is originally and essentially an incurable one, and that we need deliverance from it; then that we ourselves belong essentially to evil, and are so firmly bound to it that our works according to law and precept, i.e., according to motives, can never satisfy justice or save us, but salvation is to be gained only through faith, in other words, through a changed way of knowledge. This faith can come only through grace, and hence as from without.

This means that salvation is something quite foreign to our person, and points to a denial and surrender of this very person being necessary for salvation.


Works, the observance of the law as such, can never justify, because they are always an action from motives.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, p.407

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Max: I think you're having a breakdown, require treatment.

Howard: This is not a psychotic episode. This is a cleansing moment of clarity. I am imbued, Max. I am imbued with some special spirit. It's not a religious feeling at all. It is a shocking eruption of great electrical energy. I feel vivid and flashing as if suddenly I had been plugged into some great electro-magnetic field.

I feel connected to all living things, to flowers, birds, to all the animals of the world and even to some great unseen living force, what I think the Hindus call prana.

It is not a breakdown. I have never felt more orderly in my life! It is a shattering and beautiful sensation! It is the exalted flow of the space-time continuum, save that it is spaceless and timeless and of such loveliness! I feel on the verge of some great ultimate truth. And you will not take me off the air for now or for any other spaceless time!

Dialogue from the film "Network"

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Related posts:-
Do you have control (or does control have you)?
Incursions of the Unknown
Small Mind/Large Mind
Emptiness
A Way In
Soul Possession
The Inner Light
All ego?
Make Yourself Up

[Anonymous]

[...] anonymity is "the greatest symbol of self-sacrifice that we know."

It must be understood that anonymity means much more in AA thinking and theology than the mere protection of members from exposure and shame [...] the twelfth of the "Twelve Traditions" states that  

"anonymity is the spiritual foundation of our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities."

To this we may add that anonymity is also a profound statement of the systemic relation, part-to-whole.

[...] the single purpose of AA is directed outward and is aimed at a noncompetitive relationship to the larger world.

The variable to be maximized is a complementarity and is of the nature of "service" rather than dominance.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('The Cybernetics of "Self": A Theory of Alcoholism'), p.333-5

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I must reduce myself to zero.

So long as man does not by his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him.

Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility.

[Gandhi]
The Story of My Experiments With Truth, p.454


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If the sage refuses to be proud
Then people won't compete for his attention:

If the sage does not buy treasures
Then the people won't want to steal them:

If the sage governs with vision
Then his people won't go wrong.

So in his wisdom, he restrains himself:

- by not being greedy for food

- by not dominating the State

- by keeping himself healthy and fit.

The sage always makes sure
that the people don't know what he's done,
so they never want to take control -
and are never driven by ambition.

He keeps them in truth like this acting invisibly.

You see, if there is nothing to fight for
then there is nothing that can break the flow.

[Lao Tzu]
Tao Te Ching, Chapter Three

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Stay with the Image

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Known                        -                    Unknown
Conscious                   -                    Unconscious
Manifest                      -                    Latent


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


[...] the point is that consciousness floats; a psychic fluidum, as Mesmer might have called it, wrapping around and all through the analytical session.

It doesn't belong to either party.

Sometimes the patient has an insight, and another moment the analyst is conscious by simply being reticent, and another moment the consciousness is really in the image.

For instance, a black snake comes in a dream, a great big black snake, and you can spend a whole hour with this black snake talking about the devouring mother, talking about the anxiety, talking about the repressed sexuality, talking about natural mind, all those interpretive moves that people make, and what is left, what is vitally important, is what that snake is doing, this crawling huge black snake walking into your life [...]

[...] and the moment you've defined the snake, interpreted it, you've lost the snake, you've stopped it, and then the person leaves the hour with a concept about my repressed sexuality or my cold black passions or my mother or whatever it is, and you've lost the snake.

The task of analysis is to keep the snake there, the black snake, and there are various ways for keeping the black snake [...] see, the black snake's no longer necessary the moment it's been interpreted, and you don't need your dreams any more because they've been interpreted.

But I think you need them all the time, you need that very image you had during the night.

For example, a policeman, chasing you down the street [...] you need that image, because that image keeps you in imaginative possibility [...] if you say, "Oh, my guilt complex is loose again and is chasing me down the street," it's a different feeling, because you've taken up the unknown policeman into your ego system of what you know, your guilt.

You've absorbed the unknown into the known (made the unconscious conscious) and nothing, absolutely nothing has happened, nothing.

You're really safe from that policeman, and you can go to sleep again.

[James Hillman]
A Blue Fire, p.74


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The content of the symbol is not easily replaceable by content one already knows. Its manifestation is its most appropriate expression. There is no way to replace it.

[Jung] disliked for anyone to forget this point and just interpret dreams according to ready-made theories or known ideas. His warning, "Do anything you like, only don't try to understand [dreams]," reflects his attitude well.

[...] we would appreciate the importance of both understanding a dream and nonunderstanding a dream.

Or we might spend our entire effort on interpretation, while also remembering nevertheless that that is not the primary importance of the dream.

Amplification [...] is an effective method. Similarly, using the contents of amplification also has two directions, understanding and nonunderstanding. We cannot forget that both are important.

[...[ by the amplification of nonunderstanding, we open ourselves to discovery.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.134-5


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Amplification.

Elaboration and clarification of a dream-image by means of directed association and of parallels from the humane sciences (symbology, mythology, mysticism, folklore, history of religion, ethnology, etc.)

Since the unconscious, as the result of its spatio-temporal relativity, possesses better sources of information than the conscious mind - which has only sense perceptions available to it - we are dependent for our myth of life after death upon the meagre hints of dreams and similar spontaneous revelations from the unconscious.

As I have already said, we cannot attribute to these allusions the value of knowledge, let alone proof. They can, however, serve as suitable bases for mythic amplifications; they give the probing intellect the raw material which is indispensable for its vitality.

Cut off the intermediary world of mythic imagination, and the mind falls prey to doctrinaire rigidities. On the other hand, too much traffic with these germs of myth is dangerous for weak and suggestible minds, for they are led to mistake vague intimations for substantial knowledge, and to hypostatise mere phantasms.

[C.G. Jung]
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p.348, 411


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He had told Richard that his Hopi friend was involved in a very vast and complicated struggle that was taking place on many levels. The old man's cancer was only a small part of this whole struggle, and he explained that things like this needed to be seen in a wider context.

It is always necessary to be aware of and consider the entire situation. 

It is always necessary to be cognizant of what the spirit wants.

It is a mistake to think that the only way to help a sick man is to take away the illness.

[Doug Boyd]
Rolling Thunder, p.202


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[...] the label gives the viewer [...] too much, it pacifies him too soon.

To see a poem or a picture as fulfilling a category is to reach a premature sense of it. Naming or labelling is important because it is the most effective means of making something familiar, and familiarity is necessary if the arts are to be managed.

The snag is that the familiarity comes too soon, the label imposes local clarity by ridding the work of its mystery and releasing the viwer from his hesitation. But it's hard to make this point without giving the impression that I want people to remain hesitant or insecure forever.

I want them to postpone their security.

Most cultural forces are working towards making the arts comfortably familiar. The problem is how to break off the impression of familiarity in time to let the force of the artistic vision come through.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 77


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A lot of hostility against art is based on people's misapprehension that they're supposed to be understanding it, and failing to.

Actually, this failure is a sort of success, because it leads us away from habit, from repetition, from recognition.

[Momus]
'Derstand, understand, un-understand'


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My idea about ideas [...] is that we burn them up too quickly. We get rid of them by immediately putting them into practice. We only know one thing to do with an idea: apply it; convert it into something usable. And it dies right there in the conversion. It loses its generative power.

This sterilizing of ideas happens often when I give a talk. Someone in the audience asks, "How does that work?" "Can you give an example?" These are questions from what's classically called the Practical Intellect, whereas my talk was ideational, another aspect of reason altogether.

Explain means to lay out flat [...] when a speaker puts out an idea and then answers a question about how it works, he or she is depriving the listener of the full impact of the idea and where it might carry the listener if pondered. My answer tends to channel the thought only in one direction, generally my direction.

Again, it's that latent child in the head who believes himself, herself, unknowing (innocent), who asks questions and expects someone else to carry the work of thinking.

[...] we don't have places for entertaining ideas. And that is precisely what we're supposed to do with an idea: entertain it. This means having respect for ideas in themselves: letting them come and go without demanding too much from them at first [...]

That word "entertain" means to hold in between. What you do with an idea is hold it between - between your two hands. On the one hand, acting or applying it in the world and on the other hand, forgetting it, judging it, ignoring it, etc. So when these crazy things come in come in on you unannounced the best you can do for them is to think them, holding them, turning them over, wondering awhile.

Not rushing into practice. Not rushing into associations. This reminds of that: this is just like that. Off we go, away from the strange idea to things we already know. 

Not judging. Rather than judging them as good and bad, true or false, we might first spend a little time with them [...] Putting the idea in practice stops the play of ideas, the entertainment from going on.

[Ideas] give you eyes, new ways of seeing things. Ideas are already operating in our perspectives, the way we look at things. We take our usual ideas for granted, and so, ideas have us rather then we have them.

For ideas to be therapeutic, that is, beneficial to the soul and body politic, they must gather into themselves, garnering force, building strength, like great movers of the mind's furniture, so that the space we inhabit is rearranged. Your thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories have to move around in new ways, because the furniture has been moved.

Viable ideas have their own innate heat, their own vitality. They are living things too. But first they have to move your furniture, else it is the same old you, with your same old habits trying to apply a new idea in the same old way. Then nothing happens except the loss of the idea as "impractical" because of your haste to make it "practical"

A long-lasting idea, like a good poem or a strong character in a movie or a novel, continues to affect your practical life without ever having been put there. Ideas that live, live in us and through us into the world.

[James Hillman]
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.142, 143, 144, 145, 146


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[My artworks are] numbered for a reason. They’re numbered because you should have your experience.

Why should you be bogged down with my titles and how I thought about it and my poetic reasoning? No, that’s not necessary. Either you’re going to be drawn into it [or not]. It’s a black hole; gravity should pull you in and you should have that experience. Why should I actually infringe and dictate? It’s ridiculous.

I learn more from people who have lived with the works. … They go out, people get to live with them, security guards get to stand around them in museums, and they know more in the end about that whole experience, and they tell me things. I listen and I hear and it’s like, “Wow, I hadn’t thought of that.” It’s beautiful.

But if I were shut off, and said, “This is what it’s supposed to be about, this is how are you supposed to think about it,” that’s stupid as hell. Why would I want to get in the way of that?

In a way, I’m also being educated. It should be not only a synergy, but a complicity between the viewer and the artist, and so I’m wide open to that.

[Leonardo Drew]
'Leonardo Drew and The Mother'


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[...] what deconstruction finds at work in Mallarmé's text is the very reverse of a rich multiplicity of sense attaching to certain privileged 'themes'.

It is the effect of an endless displacement of meaning, one that constantly baffles and frustrates the desire for some assurance of thematic unity or grasp.

A phenomenological reading would assimilate these words to a complex of themes which could then be traced back - at the end of many fascinating detours and delays - to some ultimate source of interpretative unity and truth.

But this is to ignore the problems that arise as soon as one follows out the intricate logic that relates each of these terms in a series of endlessly self-effacing gestures.

[...] It is only by a certain conceptual strategy - a move to repress or contain these effects - that writing can be held within the limits laid down by any kind of thematic or phenomenological approach.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 59, 60


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Search the Depths



[...] sometimes I feel that clients' complaints are similar to koans, at least for the therapist. 

One of the famous koans is: "Bringing both hands together quickly produces a clap. What is the sound with one hand?"  

It is obvious to anyone that you don't get the answer by rational thinking.

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

It seems as though a koan is given to create an opportunity to allow the whole person to relate to deeper consciousness, instead of relying on the superficial consciousness.

Let's think about this, using the example of a symptom that a client complains about. It is not possible to resolve this by rational thinking. Then the therapist asks for the client's free associations or for the client to focus on dreams.  

This means giving up looking for resolution from superficial consciousness and searching for the answer from one's depths. Both koan and symptom function similarly here.

However, in some mild case of hysteria, the client's complex or conflict in the unconscious becomes readily conscious and thus comes to resolution. If we look at this according to the koan and the Buddhist ideas, the client was given the koan (the symptom) and abandoned it in the middle, not reaching the depths of the psyche but turning back to the other direction, helped by the therapist.

That is to say, the therapist's effort actually took away the rare opportunity for a satori experience.

I like to think this way at times: when a client suffers a symptom, it's meaningful to resolve it - but also not to resolve it. 

Of course, the conscious appeal at the beginning is to resolve the symptom quickly, so we cannot forget about that. But I am facing the total being of the client and need to be cautious. My attitude needs to be flexible. Otherwise, I don't see the way the individuation process wants to go.

One's consciousness has to be as mobile as possible in order to move freely between the surface and the depths. Then one can see direction to go [...]

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.131-2

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A Good Mix

Only in times of war or national emergencies do we call upon and assemble interdisciplinary teams to help find workable solutions to varying social problems.

If we apply the same efforts of scientific mobilization as we do during a war, large-scale beneficial effects can be achieved in a relatively short time. This could readily be accomplished by utilizing many of our universities, training facilities, and staff to best determine possible alternative methods to solving these problems.

[...] An interdisciplinary team of systems engineers, computer programmers, architects, city planners, sociologists, psychologists, educators and the like would also be needed [...]

[Jacque Fresco]
'The Future and Beyond', see here

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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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Blake noted that "A tear is an intellectual thing," and Pascal asserted that "The heart has its reasons of which the reason knows nothing."

We need not be put off by the fact that the reasonings of the heart (or of the hypothalamus) are accompanied by sensations of joy or grief.

These computations are concerned with matters which are vital to mammals, namely, matters of relationship, by which I mean love, hate, respect, dependency, spectatorship, performance, dominance, and so on.

These are central to the life of any mammal and I see no objection to calling these computations "thought," though certainly the units of relational computation are different from the units which we use to compute about isolable things.

But there are bridges between the one sort of thought and the other, and it seems to me that the artists and poets are specifically concerned with these bridges. 

It is not that art is the expression of the unconscious, but rather that it is concerned with the relation between the levels of mental process.

From a work of art it may be possible to analyze out some unconscious thoughts of the artist, but I believe that, for example, Freud's analysis of Leonardo's Virgin on the Knees of St. Anne precisely misses the point of the whole exercise. Artistic skill is the combining of many levels of mind - unconscious, conscious, and external - to make a statement of their combination. It is not a matter of expressing a single level.

Similarly, Isadora Duncan, when she said, "If I could say it, I would not have to dance it," was talking nonsense, because her dance was about combinations of saying and moving.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.470

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Conscious / Unconscious

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Conscious                -                   Unconscious
Outwards                 -                    Inwards 
Simple                      -                   Complex
Narrow                     -                     Wide

 
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[...] the very meaning of "survival" becomes different when we stop talking about the survival of something bounded by the skin and start to think of the survival of the system of ideas in a circuit.

The contents of the skin are randomized at death and the pathways within the skin are randomized.

But the ideas, under further transformation, may go on out in the world in books or works of art.

Socrates as a bioenergetic individual is dead. But much of him still lives as a component on the contemporary ecology of ideas.

The individual mind is immanent but not only in the body. It is immanent also in pathways and messages outside the body; and there is a larger Mind of which the individual mind is only a subsystem.

This larger Mind is comparable to God and is perhaps what some people mean by "God," but it is still immanent in the total interconnected social system and planetary ecology.

Freudian psychology expanded the concept of mind inwards to include the whole communication system within the body - the automatic, the habitual, and the vast range of unconscious process. What I am saying expands mind outwards.

And both of these changes reduce the scope of the conscious self. A certain humility becomes appropriate, tempered by the dignity or joy of being a part of something much bigger.

A part - if you will - of God.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.467-8


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Consciousness operates in the same way as medicine in its sampling of the events and processes of the body and of what goes on in the total mind.

It is organized in terms of purpose.

It is a short-cut device to enable you to get quickly at what you want; not to act with maximum wisdom in order to live, but to follow the shortest logical or causal path to get what you next want, which may be dinner; it may be a Beethoven sonata; it may be sex. Above all, it may be money or power.

[With the capabilities of modern technology] Conscious purpose is now empowered to upset the balances of the body, of society, and of the biological world around us. A pathology - a loss of balance - is threatened.

On the one hand, we have the systemic nature of the individual human being, the systemic nature of the culture in which he lives, and the systemic nature of the biological, ecological system around him; and, on the other hand, the curious twist in the systemic nature of the individual man whereby consciousness is, almost of necessity, blinded to the systemic nature of the man himself.

Purposive consciousness pulls out, from the total mind, sequences which do not have the loop structure which is characteristic of the whole systemic structure. If you follow the "common sense" dictates of consciousness you become, effectively, greedy and unwise - again I use "wisdom" as a word for recognition of and guidance by a knowledge of the total systemic creature.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p.439-40


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The world of consciousness is inevitably a world full of restrictions, of walls blocking the way. It is of necessity one sided, because of the nature of consciousness itself.

No consciousness can harbour more than a very small number of simultaneous perceptions.

All else must lie in shadow, with drawn from sight.

Any increase in the simultaneous contents immediately produces a dimming of consciousness, if not confusion to the point of disorientation.

Consciousness not only requires, but is of its very nature strictly limited to, the few and hence the distinct [...]

We have to make do, so to speak, with a minimum of simultaneous perceptions and successions of images. Hence in wide areas possible perceptions are continuously excluded, and consciousness is always bound to the narrowest circle.

[...] everything subliminal holds within it the ever-present possibility of being perceived and represented in consciousness. The unconscious is an irrepresentable totality of all subliminal psychic factors, a "total vision" in potentia. It constitutes the total disposition from which consciousness singles out tiny fragments from time to time.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychology and the East ('Foreword to the Introduction to Zen Buddhism'), p.167-8


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Part of the reason that the bible is full of internal contradictions, is the same reason that a dream is full of internal contradictions.

Imagine you have an impressionist painting: it’s messy, and the image emerges - and you might say, ‘well, we could replace that with a nice clean line drawing, or even a sequence of stick figures, and get the basic point across.’ Well, you would, but the inarticulable richness would be lost in the premature attempt to bring logical closure to the phenomena.

That may be the difference between dreams and waking thought: waking thought sacrifices completeness, for coherence; dream thought sacrifices coherence for completeness.

Precise thought excludes too much, and imprecise thought is not sufficiently coherent. So we do both.

Precise thought: left hemisphere, linguistically mediated, sequential, logical.
Incoherent but complete thought: imagistic, emotion-based, right hemisphere.

The right hemisphere even has a more diffuse structure - it’s like the right hemisphere is trying to get a picture of everything. It’s not going to be a very detailed picture, because it’s a picture of everything, full of contradictions. But at least it’s a picture of everything.

And the left says, ‘that’s not good enough for precise action.’ And it’s not. So we narrow it to precision, but lose the richness.

You need both, so there’s an interplay. The documents that the Bible is composed of are half dream and half articulated thought, and they have the advantages [and] disadvantages of both. To the degree that it’s articulated, it’s in a dogmatic box; to the degree that it’s a dream, it’s still incoherent.

The problem is, you have to move through the entire world, even though you don’t know it in detail. So you need detailed knowledge, where detailed knowledge is necessary; and you need vague-but-complete knowledge where that’s necessary. Its a very uncomfortable balance. We have to face everything, even though we don’t understand anything completely.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'2017 Maps of Meaning 10: Genesis and the Buddha'


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In general terms, then, the left hemisphere yields narrow, focussed attention, mainly for the purpose of getting and feeding. The right hemisphere yields a broad, vigilant attention, the purpose of which appears to be awareness of signals from the surroundings, especially of other creatures, who are potential predators or potential mates, foes or friends; and it is involved in bonding in social animals.

It might be then that the division of the human brain is also the result of the need to bring to bear two incompatible types of attention on the world at the same time, one narrow, focussed, and directed by our needs, and the other broad, open, and directed towards whatever else is going on in the world apart from ourselves.

In humans, just as in animals and birds, it turns out that each hemisphere attends to the world in a different way - and the ways are consistent.

The right hemisphere underwrites breadth and flexibility of attention, where the left hemisphere brings to bear focussed attention. 

This has the related consequence that the right hemisphere sees things whole, in and their context, where the left hemisphere sees things abstracted from context, and broken into parts, from which it then reconstructs a 'whole': something very different.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 27-8

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