Touching Base

Artificial                 -                  Real
Simulacrum            -                 Original
Concept                  -                  Percept
Abstract                  -                  Concrete
Observe                  -                  Participate
Distanced               -                  Close
Detached                -                  Attached
Horizontal               -                 Vertical
Playful                    -                  Serious
Ironic                      -                  Earnest
Empty                     -                  Full
Partial                    -                  Whole
Light                       -                  Heavy
Conscious               -                  Unconscious
Unlimited               -                   Limited
Infinite                    -                  Finite

[...] 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

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.

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

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'

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

In the West, we tend to live our lives at one remove from reality, relying on images and concepts.

As Tashi Rabgyas said after spending a few months in England,

"It's amazing how indirect everything is here. They write about the beauty of nature, they talk about it, and everywhere there are potted plants and plastic plants, and pictures of trees on the wall.

And all the time television programs about nature. But they don't ever seem to have contact with the real thing."

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.190

In the eyes of Indians, white Americans became interested only in the shadows of things and strove to ignore and even deny the realities behind them.

[Doug Boyd]
Rolling Thunder, p.59

Debord traces the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with its representation

"All that was once directly lived has become mere representation."

Debord argues that the history of social life can be understood as "the decline of being into having, and having into merely appearing."

This condition, according to Debord, is the "historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life."

With the term spectacle, Debord defines the system that is a confluence of advanced capitalism, the mass media, and the types of governments who favor those phenomena.

The spectacle is the inverted image of society in which relations between commodities have supplanted relations between people, in which "passive identification with the spectacle supplants genuine activity". "

The spectacle is not a collection of images," Debord writes. "rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images."

'Society of the Spectacle', Wikipedia

It has been shown that concepts borrow their material from knowledge of perception, and that therefore the whole structure of our world of thought rests on the world of perceptions.

It must therefore be possible for us to go back from every concept, even if through intermediate stages, to the perceptions from which it has itself been directly drawn, or from which have been drawn the concepts of which it is in turn an abstraction.

In other words, it must be possible for us to verify the concept with perceptions that stand to abstractions in the relation of examples.  

Therefore these perceptions furnish us with the real content of all our thinking, and wherever they are missing we have had in our heads not concepts but mere words.

[...] Actually all truth and all wisdom ultimately lie in perception; but unfortunately perception cannot be either retained or communicated.

[...] Therefore, as a rule, the man of the world cannot impart his accumulated truth and wisdom, but only practice it.

That books do not take the place of experience, and that learning is no substitute for genius, are two kindred phenomena; their common ground is that the abstract can never take the place of the perceptive. Therefore books do not take the place of experience, because concepts always remain universal, and so do not reach down to the particular; yet it is precisely the particular that has to be dealt with in life.

In addition to this is the fact that all concepts are abstracted from the particular and perceptive of experience [...]

Wisdom proper is something intuitive, not something abstract. It does not consist in principles and ideas which a person carries round ready in his head, as results of his own or others' investigation; it is the whole way in which the world presents itself in his head.

[Arthur Schopenhauer]
The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p.71, 74-5

Rolling Thunder had explained at Council Grove that his training was experiential.

In his first conversation with me he said that truth cannot be expressed verbally, that it can only be experienced [...]

"[...] You can't just sit down and talk about the truth. It doesn't work that way. You have to live it and be part of it and you might get to know it. I say you might. And it's slow and gradual and it don't come easy [...]"

[Doug Boyd]
Rolling Thunder, p.37, 71

Wow, so interesting to read this about Lady Gaga.

I see her as the exact opposite of Ammachi, as the epitome of Kali Yuga, the dark mother, a post-modern Madonna accelerating Time Wave Zero with her cut up pastiche videos that flash image, image, image towards the breaking point of narrative and meaning.

I see her as the goddess of Hubbert’s Peak, epitomizing pop culture morphed into its final-last-gasp-stage attempt at meaning making before the entire material culture we live in collapses. I see an emaciated woman that mistakes fashion for femininity as she dwindles away.

I see spectacle without substance, a consumable product of the Kali Yuga age.

Comment on article 'Lada Gaga: The Visionary Rebirth of the Divine Mother Monster'

Perhaps we don't know what's real any more.

Consumerism, after all, specialises in creating a fake world, in which new 'needs' are created every day by fashionistas and marketing gurus, who will then meet them - at a price.

In this fake world, age, pain, misery, insecurity, loneliness - all can be fended off or overcome with purchases. Animals die out of sight, and their meat comes to us shrink-wrapped and washed clean of blood. Apples fall from the trees twelve months of the year. Plastic landscapes, designed in distant office suites, come between us and the reality of place.

We are cut off from the land, from seasons, from geography, from the dirt and hard work and complications of the world outside the bubble. Enough of this, and the bubble itself becomes the reality.

[Paul Kingsnorth]
Real England, p.272

For the primitive, thought is visionary and auditory, hence it also has the character of revelation. Thus the sorcerer, the visionary, is always the thinker of the tribe, who brings about the manifestation of the spirits or gods.

This also explains the magical effect of thought; it is as good as the deed, just because it is real. In the same way the word, the outer covering of thought, has a "real" effect because it calls up "real" memory-images.

Primitive superstition surprises us only because we have largely succeeded in de-sensualizing the psychic image; we have learnt to think abstractly [...]

[C. G. Jung]
Psychological Types, p. 30

Metaphoric thinking is fundamental to our understanding of the world, because it is the only way in which understanding can reach outside the system of signs to life itself.

It is what links language to life.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 115

In the opening of Book VIII of his long autobiographical poem The Prelude, Wordsworth depicts a country fair taking place in the valley below him as he sits on the side of Helvellyn, the voices of the country folk, laughing and talking, coming up to him in snatches.

Again his elevated view is an image of self-consciousness, a level of self-awareness that he cannot now lose, forever separated from the simple pleasures of rusticity by his awareness that true pleasure belongs only to those who are not self-aware.

The evocation of their voices carrying echoingly up to his seat above conveys perfectly the combination of closeness and distance, of something recaptured, but also forever lost.

How to be unself-reflectingly simple down there, and yet in a position to appreciate the simplicity at the same time?

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 362

The mind does not derive cause and effect from observations, but already experiences its observations in a context in which cause and effect are presupposed realities: causality in human cognition is not derived from experience but is brought to experience.

As with cause and effect, so too with other categories of the understanding such as substance, quantity, and relation. Without such fundamental frames of reference, such a priori interpretive principles, the human mind would be incapable of comprehending its world. 

Human experience would be an impossible chaos, an utterly formless and miscellaneous manifold, except that the human sensibility and understanding by their very nature transfigure that manifold into a unified perception, place it in a framework of time and space, and subject it to the ordering principles of causality, substance, and the other categories. 

Experience is a construction of the mind imposed on sensation.

[Richard Tarnas]
The Passion of the Western Mind, p. 344

[Don Quixote] often approximates a subjectivistic occasionalism.

He declares his idea of Dulcinea to be more important than her real aspect. This is because who Dulcinea is does not matter. What matters is only that, for him, she remains the object of the ideal devotion that inspires him to great deeds.

[Carl Schmitt]
Political Romanticism, p. 148

Subjective occasionalism - the object is important only as an occasion, a conduit, for subjectivity, rather than for what it is in itself; its essence. The thing-in-itself is unimportant, and remains untouched. Objective reality is irrelevant, it matters only as a launching pad for subjective flights of fancy. 

Not only literature but every form of expression, knowledge, and work has surrounded itself with commentary and criticism; the creative impulse, smothered by "metaphysical" speculation, runs out of breath. "Never since the beginning of Time was there... so intensely self-conscious a society." Everything is "probed into" - "anatomically studied, that it may be medically aided."

When thought becomes too conscious of itself, it loses contact with "vital action" and drifts off into airy, increasingly self-referential abstractions.

German idealism and British utilitarianism, the latter with its "cunning mechanising of self-interests, and all conceivable adjustments of checking and balancing," exemplify the split between action and inquiry. The "whole man, heaven-inspired," recedes from view, and partial men stand in his place, incapacitated alike for intelligent action and for original thought.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.237

Noam Chomsky, the MIT linguist, has proposed that there are deep linguistic structures within the brain that are common to human beings irrespective of the language they happen to speak […] Within Chomsky's picture, the world's languages are surface structures, vehicles for expressing what is being generated at a much deeper level within the brain.

Indigenous people do not, I think, see things in the same way as Noam Chomsky.

Within Indigenous science, thoughts are inseparable from language. The language that is spoken is not simply a medium, or a vehicle for communication, rather it is a living thing, an actual physical power within the universe. The vibrations of its words are energies that act within the transforming processes we call reality. 

Moreover, each language is a link with the particular landscape in which a people live.

Within Indigenous science the word itself has power. Conventional linguistics holds that the connection between a word and its referent is purely arbitrary. Thus, one of the fathers of modern linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure, distinguished between what he called signifiant ("the thing that signifies," or "the sound image") and signifié (the concept or thing that is being signified).

This question of the arbitrary nature of words goes back to the disputes of the Greek philosophers. Aristotle, for example, felt that names had no intrinsic existence and were no more than symbols for objects and concepts. On the other hand, Plato suggested that a certain intrinsic relationship existed between the name and the thing signified. This echoes the tradition that comes from several of the world's esoteric and mystical practices that certain names in themselves have power and significance.

There are also traditions of sacred languages - the languages in which the gods spoke to humans - in which each word has a perfect correspondence to the inner nature of the universe.

Within Indigenous science, to say something is to create an objective event and release a process of energetic vibrations that enter into relationships with the other powers and energies of nature. Thus, since every sound is an event of significance, a person must take responsibility for whatever he or she says.

Language was created by the Ancestors as a direct connection to nature. Words link man to the inner meaning of things.

Sa'ke'j Henderson has explained how in Mic Mag the names of trees are the sound that the wind makes as it moves through their leaves in the fall. The name of a tree is therefore far from arbitrary. It is based upon the direct experience of listening to a specific sound that refers to a particular tree for each of the different species of trees makes a different sound. It is, moreover, a sound made at that time of the year when the leaves begin to dry, a sound specific to a particular area of Turtle Island as the salt-laden wind blows in from the Atlantic Ocean.

Trees process, the manifestations of animating energies in a particular environment. Move to a different part of the world and the tree, in its deeper sense, is no longer the same. While the word dog changes in a purely arbitrary fashion as we drive across the frontier between the United States and Mexico, the sound vibration of the word for tree and the material manifestation of the process are all tied to the changing context of an actual landscape.

[F. David Peat]
Blackfoot Physics, p.223-4, 226-7

Those who support a post-structural understanding of language are often confronted with the following question: if language is constituted by a set of relationships among signifiers, how do you account for the relationship between language and the world?

The concern here is that if meaning is ascribed to the play of signs only, language will become free-floating to the extent that no empirical truth claims can be made anymore. Although this objection is usually motivated by a nostalgia for a coherent metanarrative capable of regulating the production of meaning, it does pose a question that deserves a careful answer.

[…] information from the environment has a direct, though non-determinate, influence on the system: it causes certain changes in the system, but it does not fully determine the nature of these changes.

Information from the environment interacts in a nonlinear way with information already stored in the system. (Bear in mind that the memory of the system is distributed, not iconic.) Incoming signals are mediated by the history of the system in such a way that it incorporates important new aspects, but resists unnecessary fluctuations.

The state of the system at any given time is thus the result of conditions in the environment, the history of the system and the effects that the system must have on its environment in order to perform its functions.

How does language in fact interact with the environment (the ‘world out there’)? Primarily through the users of language who have to interact with the environment in order to survive and operate in it. As a matter of fact, language is one of the most important tools we use to cope with the task. We try to make sense of our experiences, and in the process create and expand our language. This is not the result of an act by an abstract mind, nor a mere reflection of circumstances.

Meaningful language evolves in time through a self-organising process, suspended between active and passive, in which useful or effective forms of language survive, and obsolete forms decay.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.125-6

If language can be described as a self-organising system, the problem of the relationship between language and the world is solved in a fairly sophisticated way.

The world has a direct causal influence on the meaning of words, but it does not determine the exact meaning of words. Meaning flows from a complex process of interaction between information from the world, on the one hand, and a web of already existing relationships, built up through previous interactions, on the other hand. This makes language a vital, evolving system, capable of coping with great complexity.

If certain aspects of the environment are of great importance, the system will organise itself towards a robust, accurate interpretation of these aspects. It will not waste its resources by allocating too much of it to terms that are used infrequently or are of little interest.

This kind of interpretation of language allows us to find an important place for the dynamics of trace and différance; it also leads us to acknowledge that the linguistic system will organise itself to a point of criticality where the maximum amount of meaning can be generated without becoming unanchored from the world.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.126

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